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NiUl Obstat 


Censor Deputatus 



Die xix Januarii MCMIII 







IV. THE SAXON CHURCH . . . . .32 















WHEN our Saviour sent forth His Apostles to preach the Gospel 
Britain had already come under the power of the Roman Emperors. 
In the designs of God's providence this vast empire was destined to 
aid in spreading far and wide the Christian faith. And so it came to 
pass that this distant island and Jerusalem, where by Christ's death 
on the cross the redemption of the world was accomplished, then 
formed parts of a worldwide organised system of government whose 
centre was at Rome. 

The inhabitants of the land, who were called Britons, seem to have 
possessed a not inconsiderable measure of civilisation, and their sub- 
jugation by the Romans was only effected after a long and stubborn 
resistance. Indeed, it was not until the beginning of the second 
century of the Christian Era that the Roman system of colonisation 
can be said to have had its full effect in this distant province, and 


8 A Short History of 

the native inhabitants settled down under the government of their 
masters. After that cities, villas, temples, camps, theatres and baths 
gradually sprung up all over the country, and for three hundred years 
Roman officials administered justice and Roman legions preserved 
order in the land. 

It was during this time that the Christian faith was implanted in 
the country. How it came, or whence, or exactly when, must for 
ever remain a matter of conjecture and uncertainty. But that the 
blessings of the Gospel teaching, which effected so great a change in 
the hearts and lives of the British race, must have come to them 
some time in the second or third century seems almost beyond ques- 
tion. Legends, containing doubtless some measure of truth some 
foundation of fact which it is now impossible to distinguish from 
the poetic elements which enshroud it, have been made from the 
earliest times to do duty for more exact history and have fed the 
piety of our Catholic ancestors. It is easy to understand how, for 
example, they loved to imagine that their country had received the 
light of truth, if not actually from one of the Apostles, at least from 
some one of their immediate followers. Thus the story of Saint 
Joseph of Arimathea's mission and of his connection with the great 
monastery of Glastonbury was long credited by the simple faith of 
those who loved to link their land with the memory of those who had 
personally known our Lord Himself. 

More likely indeed, but yet not devoid of many elements of uncer- 
tainty and doubt, is the story, told by Saint Bede, of how Lucius, 
king of Britain, sent to Pope Eleutherius in the year A.D. 157 " praying 
to be made a Christian by an act of his authority " ; and how, upon 
his petition being granted, his messengers were instructed in the faith 
and baptised. One of them, Elf an, it is said, was consecrated a 
bishop, and another, Medwy, a doctor, or teacher. The ancient 
devotion of the Welsh to this King Lucius and to his messengers, 
as well as to the two Italian missioners Damianus and Fugatius, who 
are said to have been sent by the Pope at this time into England, 
would seem to testify in some measure to some substantial truth in 
this legend. Even if it were wholly true, however, it would not, of 
course, follow that Christianity did not come to this country through 
other channels. If probability is to be any guide in this matter, no 
way would appear to be more likely than that the Faith was brought 

the Catholic Church in England 9 

from Rome by the Roman soldiers, or by the British youths, numbers 
of whom served in the Imperial armies abroad. 

Whatever may have been the way, however, and whenever the 
exact time, this much seems certain, that the Gospel had been 
successfully preached to the Britons in Britain, and that the fact 
was known to Tertullian, at the beginning of the third century. In 
A.D. 208, in which year he wrote his tract Against the Jews, he 
expressly declares that the " haunts of the British, which have been 
inaccessible to the Romans, are subject to Christ." 

More than a century passes without further information as to 
British Christianity. When the light comes again, however, it is to 
find, in A.D. 314, evidence of an organised Church sending three of its 
bishops to take part in the Council of Aries, presided over by legates 
of Pope St. Sylvester. These British bishops assented to Canon I. of 
this Council, by which Easter was to be kept on the day appointed by 
the Pope. They joined also in the epistle dispatched by the assembled 
Fathers to the Pope asking him to send round " the customary letters " 
announcing the results of their deliberations. They address him as 
" most beloved Pope Sylvester," and say that, " abiding in the common 
link of charity and in the bond of the unity of their Mother the 
Catholic Church," they " salute him, the glorious Pope, with deserved 
reverence." They express their regret that he was not with them, 
but realise that he could not absent himself from " those parts in 
which also the Apostles daily sit, and their blood without ceasing 
attests the glory of God." 

From this time onward almost everything that we know about the 
British Church manifests it as one with the Catholic Church through- 
out the world. In A.D. 325 British bishops attended the Council of 
Nicsea ; and the Emperor Constantine in his letter to bishops who had 
not been present names Britain with Rome as one among the 
Catholic Churches which agreed in the date of Easter. Two-and- 
twenty years later, according to the testimony of St. Hilary, bishops 
from Britain assented to the decrees of the Council of Sardica 
(A.D. 347) which acquitted St. Athanasius. At this time obviously 
the Church in Britain was one in faith with St. Athanasius, and could 
not have been tainted with Arianism, as St. Bede, misled by Gildas, 
suggests. It was at this Council of Sardica, moreover, that a pro- 
vision was made about appealing to the Pope, and in the Synodical 

io A Short History of 

letter the Fathers say : "It would seem to be the best and most 
proper course for the priests of the Lord from every province to 
refer to their head, that is, to the See of the Apostle Peter." 

In A.D. 358 St. Hilary of Poictiers wrote his book De Synodis. In 
it he expressly names the " bishops of the British provinces " as 
amongst those who have remained " undefiled and uninjured by all 
contagion of the detestable (Arian) heresy." He addresses them as 
" bishops communicating with me in Christ," and rejoices "in the 
integrity of their common faith." 

In the following year (A.D. 359) British bishops attended the Council 
of Rimini, and their expenses were paid by the Emperor. A few years 
later, again, St. Athanasius, writing in conjunction with the other 
bishops from the Council of Alexandria (A.D. 363), in a letter addressed 
to the Emperor Jovian, names Britain as among those Churches 
consenting to the faith of Nicaea. 

The beginning of the fifth century saw the rise of the Pelagian 
heresy. Pelagius, the originator of the errors, was himself a member 
of the British Church, and, when excommunicated for his false teach- 
ing, wrote in A.D. 402 to Pope Innocent I. as follows : " This, most 
blessed Pope, is the faith we have learnt in the Catholic Church. . . . 
If anything is stated therein not accurately or guardedly, as it should 
be, we desire to be corrected by you, who hold both Peter's faith and 
See. But if this our confession is approved by the judgment of your 
Apostleship, then whosoever endeavours to cast blots on me will 
prove himself either ignorant or malicious, or even not a Catholic, but 
will not prove that I am a heretic." 

The errors of Pelagius appear to have found some, if not many, 
adherents in Britain, and grave religious dissensions of a serious 
character sprang up in the Church of this country. St. Victricius, 
Bishop of Rouen, and himself a Briton by birth, was charged in 
A.D. 396 by the Pope to cross over to his native country in order to com- 
pose these difficulties. He asked Pope Innocent I., who sent him, to 
give him " the rule (nor mam) and authority of the Roman Church." 
In reply the Pontiff says : " If any weightier causes come under dis- 
cussion, let them after Episcopal judgment be reported to the 
Apostolic See, as the Synod (of Sardica) lays down and a blessed 
custom requires." 

The mission of St. Victricius evidently did not accomplish all that 

the Catholic Church in England \ I 

was hoped from it, and in A.D. 429 St. Germamis, Bishop of Auxerre, 
was sent into Britain by Pope Celestine. St. Prosper, the secretary 
of Pope Leo the Great, in giving his account of this mission says that 
he was sent by the Pope " as his vicar," who by this " endeavoured to 
keep this Koman island Catholic." In A.D. 447 St. Germanus paid a 
second visit to Britain, this time accompanied by St. Severus, Arch- 
bishop of Treves ; and in A.D. 455 we know that the British followed 
the direction of Rome in fixing Easter. 

This was the last sign of any connection between the British Church 
at this period and the Western world. The dark clouds of the Saxon 
invasion had already begun to gather, and the struggle between the 
pagan hordes and the then Christian people of Britain continued 
through more than a century and a half. In all this time little informa- 
tion as to the state of religion in the country is afforded from any source. 
Of the preceding period all that can be known with certainty has been 
set out briefly above, and it clearly shows the early British Church in 
close connection with the other Churches of the West. It proves, too, 
that, if we except the taint of Pelagianism which apparently to some 
extent infected it at the close of this period, the Church of this land 
from the earliest times to the middle of the fifth century was wholly 
orthodox and wholly Catholic. It is also not a little remarkable that 
almost every item of information that can be gathered about the 
Church of the British brings it into obvious connection with Rome as 
the centre of unity. 

With the beginning of the fifth century the assaults of the barbarian 
hordes from the North on all parts of the vast Roman Empire neces- 
sitated a concentration of forces at Rome, the centre. In A.D. 412 the 
Imperial legions were withdrawn from Britain, and although, in 
response to appeals from the country, they twice again came to the 
assistance of the inhabitants, they finally left the land in A.D. 427. 
Over the history of the period which followed there hangs an im- 
penetrable veil, hardly lifted even by story or legend, till the coming 
of St. Augustine a century and a half after. That this period was a 
time of unceasing internecine war with the invaders, and that the 
situation was complicated by constant and terrible struggles between 
the Britons themselves, and between the Britons and the men of 
Caledonia, seems certain. With the Saxon enemy, who strove so 
strenuously to dispossess them of the land, the British would have no 

12 A Short History of 

truce or agreement. In Italy the invading Lombards became in time 
so merged in the Latin population that they even adopted the language 
of the conquered. In Gaul, too, the people of the soil finally asserted 
their supremacy in the same way, and even preserved their native 
tongue in spite of their Frankish conquerors. But in Britain there 
was apparently no mingling of the races. The British either perished 
in the fight or were driven back into Wales and the West country. 
In spite of a stubborn and brave resistance, in which the Britons con- 
tested every inch of the country, the pagan invaders advanced by 
slow degrees from all sides till their banners met in the centre of the 
kingdom. The conquest of the island was, however, a laborious work, 
and it was not until about A.D. 585, twelve years only before the 
coming of St. Augustine to Kent, that the Angles succeeded in 
establishing the kingdom of Mercia, and the overthrow of the British 
was complete. 

It is necessary to realise this slow progress of the Saxon conquest 
as well as the implacable hostility of the Britons to the pagan North- 
men, who had seized upon their country, if we are to understand the 
condition to which all this tune the British Church was of necessity 
reduced, and to account for the attitude of the native Christians when 
subsequently asked to assist in converting their enemies to the Faith. 
Amid the difficulty of maintaining connection with Rome and of keeping 
herself in touch with the other Churches of the West, the Church of 
this country was thrown back upon its own resources. It was neces- 
sarily left to guide itself and to preserve, as well as it might, the 
traditions and teachings of a time when it formed part of the Christian 
Church of the West. That under these conditions it would probably 
have become narrow and exclusive is to be expected. But that, even 
at the close of the dark period of time, say, from A.D. 450 to A.D. 600, it 
had ceased to be Catholic in any sense, or had become substantially 
different from what it had been in the early days of British Chris- 
tianity, is at least disproved by the slender information which we now 
possess about it. 

Practically, the works of Gildas the Briton, who wrote about 
A.D. 560, are very nearly the only sources of information available. 
Allowing for every possible exaggeration on the part of one who 
obviously took the blackest view as to the sufferings of his country- 
men, at the hands of their pagan foes during the time of bitter 

the Catholic Church in England 13 

hostility, the picture he gives of the fallen state to which as a nation 
and as a Church the British were reduced, must be allowed to be very 
terrible. But, even amid the dark shadings of the picture, it is pos- 
sible to glean a few items of knowledge about the religious situation, 
which show that the Church emerged from the trial practically as it 
was before. From his tract we gather that in the British Church 
at that time there were a great number of clerics ; that the bishops, 
honoured and wealthy, were fulfilling the functions, and were regarded 
as the successors of the Apostles, and especially of " the holder of the 
keys of the kingdom of heaven," St. Peter. Synods, too, were held, 
and the priesthood and every ecclesiastical order was conferred by 
certain and definite rites of ordination. Monks were bound by vows, 
and celibacy was practised by them and by holy women devoted to 
God. There is evidence, too, of the cultus of the Saints ; churches 
were dedicated to God under their memory, and the Christian altar 
was called "the place of the Heavenly Sacrifice." 

These are indeed small items of information perhaps, but they are 
precious indications of the life and practices of the British Church 
at that time. They are given, it is true, almost by chance in the 
querulous letter of Gildas ; but they are sufficient to show that it had 
clung to the Faith, in spite of the storms and distress which afflicted 
it for more than four generations. 

Besides what may be gathered from the works of Gildas, the lives 
of the early Welsh Saints seem to point to the same conclusion. 
Their evidence, it is true, is rather that of tradition than of history ; 
but they appear to prove the existence of many men of great personal 
sanctity during this sad time ; and they exhibit their care in the fulfil- 
ment of their Episcopal office to preserve the Faith from error. 
They point, moreover, to the existence of great and observant 
monasteries; to the holding of Synods, and to the establishment 
of schools among the then oppressed Britons. Thus, to take two 
or three examples in the sixth century : St. David, it is said, was 
instructed by a disciple of St. Germanus of Auxerre in the Isle of 
Wight. After building a hermitage at Glastonbury he was present at 
the Synod of Brevi in A.D. 519, which had been called to legislate against 
the same errors of Pelagianism that had so long afflicted the British 
Church. At the close of this Synod St. Dubritius, Bishop of Caerleon, 
insisted on resigning his see to St. David, and this latter in the 

14 A Short Hist or v of 

course of his ministry founded many monasteries and held at least 
one other Synod, at a place called Victoria. His death occurred 
in A.D. 544. 

The same above-named Bishop of Caerleon, St. Dubritius, con- 
secrated a Briton named St. Daniel as the first Bishop of Bangor. Here 
St. Daniel established a large college. He too was present in the Synod 
of Brevi, and dying in A.D. 545 was buried in the Isle of Bardney. This 
place was the most sacred spot in the eyes of the British Christians, 
and was called by them " the Rome of Britain." It was to this place 
of holy memories that St. Dubritius, after resigning his see, retired to 
die, and according to the cherished traditions of the Church of Britain, 
here reposed the bodies of some twenty thousand holy martyrs and 
confessors. Another British Saint of this period was St. Kentigern, 
who was born in A.D. 516 and died only in A.D. 601 in the north, after St. 
Augustine had commenced his work in the south. St. Kentigeni was 
consecrated Bishop of Glasgow by an Irish bishop who had been 
invited over for the purpose. Driven from his see by civil disturbances 
he fled to Wales, where he lived from about A.D. 543 to 560, and where 
he established great schools. He returned, however, to his own see, 
and continued to work there until his death at an advanced age. 
His companion, again, was St. Asaph, renowned in Wales for the 
purity and sanctity of his life. 

The above names of holy men, still revered and honoured by the 
Catholic Church as Saints, will serve merely as examples of the great 
servants of God who lived at this period. They and many others 
laboured to preserve the Catholic faith in the British Church, which 
through stress of circumstances had been severed from any connection 
with the other Churches of the West. They prove at least that the 
British Church, even in this time of gloom and isolation, was true 
and faithful to all the substantial points of faith and practice. In 
fact, at the close of this dark period, St. Augustine names only two 
points in which Catholics in Britain differed from the Catholics of the 
West who followed the Roman usages the date of the celebration 
of Easter and some customs as to the administration of the rite of 
Baptism. What the latter difference was must ever remain a matter 
of conjecture, and the former is explained by the fact that the change 
in the date of keeping Easter was made after the enforced isolation 
of the British from the other Western Churches. Moreover, the 

the Catholic Church in England 15 

Easter to which the British clung so tenaciously was really an old 
Eoman Easter, fixed by an earlier Koman cycle. The mere fact, 
however, that no other point of divergence between Home and 
Britain is noted is sufficient proof that in all else there was prac- 
tical agreement, and that the Church in this land had clung to what 
it held to be Catholic with praiseworthy tenacity. 

1 6 A Short History of 


THE Saxon conquest of Britain made it once more a pagan country. 
Almost every trace of the flourishing British Church had been 
destroyed during the course of the long conflict except where in 
Wales and Cornwall the Christian people had found a refuge from 
their enemies. Of the seven divisions or kingdoms into which the 
various conquering tribes of Northmen had partitioned the land, 
the most important and powerful in the last decade of the sixth 
century was that of Kent. Its king, Ethelbert, had forced his 
immediate neighbours to acknowledge his sway, and his "Empire," 
to use St. Bede's expression, was spread along the eastern coast to 
the Humber, whilst the East Saxons acknowledged him as overlord. 

Ethelbert, although a pagan, was not unacquainted with the 
teachings of the Christian religion. It was probably the belief of 
most of the British slaves in his dominions, and it was certainly 
professed by his queen Bertha, the daughter of Haribert, the 
Frankish king of Paris. In fact, at the Royal Court at Canterbury 
the queen had apparently for many years before the coming of the 
Roman missionaries enjoyed the ministrations of the Christian 
prelate, Luidhard, who had accompanied her from Gaul. It was 
to this king, thus in some measure prepared for the good tidings 
of the Gospel, that God in His Providence sent the Apostles of our 

The story of their coming is known to all. It was what we should 
perhaps call chance that first directed attention to the spiritual needs 

the Catholic Church in England 17 

of our Saxon ancestors. Some fair-haired youths in the market-place 
at Rome attracted the attention of St. Gregory the Great a few years 
before he became Pope in A.D. 590. On hearing that they were pagans 
he was fired with a desire to become himself the Apostle of a race which 
from their appearance deserved, as he said, to be called rather " Angels " 
than " Angles." Once, indeed, he actually started on his missionary 
enterprise, but was recalled by the clamours of the Roman people, 
who feared to lose him from their midst. Though laid aside, his 
project was not abandoned, and a few years after he was raised 
to St. Peter's throne he dispatched Augustine, one of the monks of 
his old monastery, with a band of devoted followers to accomplish 
his design. 

The mission finally reached its destination and landed in the Isle 
of Thanet about Easter time A.D. 597. King Ethelbert received St. 
Augustine and his forty monks, listened to their message, and pro- 
mised to ponder upon it. He kept his word so well that on June 1, 
A.D. 597, he and numbers of his subjects bowed their heads to the 
sacred yoke of the Gospel, and received the Sacrament of Baptism. 
Meanwhile the Christian Queen Bertha had provided for the mis- 
sionaries in the ancient Church of St. Martin at Canterbury, which 
had been originally British, and which for some years had been used 
by Bishop Luidhard for the spiritual wants of the Queen and her 
Christian followers. 

Later in the same year, A.D. 597, St. Augustine was instructed to 
repair to Aries, there to receive Episcopal consecration at the hands 
of Vergilius, the papal representative in Gaul. This he did, and 
became first Archbishop of the English. Anxious to understand 
exactly what powers he really possessed, he applied to the Pope for 
information. To this St. Gregory the Great replied : " We give you 
no authority over the bishops of Gaul, because in ancient times the 
Bishop of Aries received the pallium from my predecessors, and we 
do not wish to deprive him of the ancient authority he has received. 
But as for all the bishops of Britain we commit them to your care, 
that the unlearned may be taught, the weak strengthened by per- 
suasion, and the perverse corrected by authority." 

The Pope further provided for the newly established Church in 
England by giving St. Augustine power to create twelve suffragan 
sees in the southern part of the country and twelve in the north, 


1 8 A Short History of 

with a second Metropolitan see at York. With regard to St. 
Augustine's own powers the Pope declares ; "To you, brother, 
by the authority of our God and Lord Jesus Christ, shall be subject 
not only those bishops you shall ordain . . . but likewise all the 
priests in Britain." 

Early in his mission St. Augustine made an attempt to secure 
the co-operation of the British Church in general, and the British 
bishops in particular, in the work of converting the Saxon peoples 
to the Faith. The account of the meeting between the new 
Archbishop and the representatives of the old Church of the 
country, as we read it in the medieval story, is now admitted to 
be legendary. But about the main features of the story as related by 
Bede there can be no room for doubt. The fact that the British bishops 
did not object to meet St. Augustine as representative of the Pope 
is at least as instructive about their general attitude, as the only 
points upon which the Apostle of our race insisted, was upon the 
general orthodoxy of their teachings and practice. The meeting 
failed, but there can be hardly any doubt that the failure was due 
entirely to the general attitude of implacable hostility maintained by 
the Britons towards their Saxon conquerors. 

The details of the work done by the Roman missionaries in Kent 
and the south in establishing the Church on a firm basis are 
necessarily somewhat meagre. What, however, does appear clearly 
is the Roman character of the work. "The English Church," 
writes the Abbe Duchesne, "is clearly a colony of the Roman 
Church. This relation is evidenced even in the material dis- 
position of the buildings and their names Canterbury was a 
little Rome." We have evidence of this to-day the cathedral at 
Canterbury was dedicated as " Christ Church," or St. Saviour's, a 
memory of the St. Saviour's of the Lateran ; the dedication of 
SS. Peter and Paul recalled the great basilicas of the Vatican 
and St. Paul's without the walls, whilst St. Andrew's, at Rochester, 
is a memory of St. Augustine's old home on the Coelian, now San 

The Archbishop's plan for evangelising the land was evidently 
based upon the belief that, were the Christian religion once firmly 
established in the realm of St. Ethelbert, it would best secure 
the ultimate success of his mission. In this his efforts were 

the Catholic Church in England 19 

entirely fruitful, and Kent became the centre of religious life, 
and, at the same time, the centre of a new civilisation. In the 
earliest laws of our country can be traced the influence, if not in 
fact the hand, of the Boman missioner, our Apostle. 

St. Augustine died May 26, A.D. 604. By this time he had 
consecrated three of the band of missionaries sent from Borne by 
St. Gregory, as bishops; namely, St. Laurence as his successor at 
Canterbury ; St. Justus as Bishop of Bochester ; and St. Mellitus 
as Bishop of London. 

It was St. Mellitus who, whilst in Borne in A.D. 610, assisted at 
a Council and signed the decrees, as first Bishop of London. He 
had gone to the Eternal City to confer with Pope Boniface on the 
affairs of the English Church, and St. Bede tells us that he brought 
back to this country a copy of the laws and decrees of this Council 
"to the Churches of the English to be prescribed and observed." 
In A.D. 616 King Ethelbert died. For a while the infant Church 
was now imperilled through the necessary opposition of the 
missionaries to the evil passions of his son and successor. At the 
same time the sons of Saberect reverted to paganism and expelled 
St. Mellitus from London, and St. Justus from Bochester, forcing 
them to take refuge in Gaul. St. Laurence, the successor of St. 
Augustine, was about to follow his brethren into exile, when a last 
attempt to recall the king of Kent to the profession of the Christian 
faith, proved successful. The Archbishop remained at Canterbury, 
and the two other bishops returned from across the sea. Prom 
this time, supported by the influence of the kings of Kent, the 
Church maintained its position in that kingdom. 

St. Justus of Bochester became fourth Archbishop of Canterbury, 
and in A.D. 619 Pope Boniface, in sending him the pallium, bade 
him "ordain bishops as occasion should require." The last of 
St. Augustine's companions to succeed him in the archiepiscopal 
chair was the monk Honorius. He was consecrated in A.D. 625, 
and Pope Honorius in writing to him says : " We give you authority 
to act in the place (vice) of the Blessed Prince of the Apostles. . . . 
For which reason also, in our special love for you, we have sent 
you the Pallium for use in celebrating the said ordinations ; that 
you may be able to ordain in a manner pleasing to God by the 
authority of our commands." In other words, Episcopal ordinations 

20 A Short History of 

in England were to be effected by authority of the Pope. Honorius 
also gave him instructions as to the consecration of his successor. 
" When either of the prelates of Canterbury and York," he writes, 
" shall depart this life, the survivor shall have power to ordain 
another, so that it may not be necessary always to travel to Rome, 
or so great a distance by sea or land, for the ordination of an 

It would be a great mistake, however, to suppose that the efforts 
and influence of this band of missionaries from Rome, with its centre 
at Canterbury, were confined to Kent and the neighbouring kingdoms, 
or came to an end at the death of St. Augustine. The work of 
the monks in reality only began in the lifetime of the great Pope 
who had sent them, and who died in March A.D. 604, shortly 
before St. Augustine. The devoted Roman missionaries, after 
making their position secure at Canterbury, extended the field of 
their labours. It was, in fact, from them and their allies that the 
Anglo-Saxon peoples first heard the Gospel preached from the 
Cheviots to the English Channel. That is to say, the whole Eastern 
half of England, with one exception, first received the Faith from 
the disciples of St. Augustine. 

In A.D. 625 Edwin, King of Northumbria, asked in marriage 
Ethelburga, the daughter of the late King Ethelbert. She was of 
course a Christian, whilst Edwin was still a pagan, and it was 
stipulated that she should be allowed the free exercise of her 
religion in the North, and should take with her as her chaplain the 
monk Paulinus, one of the followers of St. Augustine. This was 
conceded, and St. Paulinus was consecrated bishop. It seems pro- 
bable that to this fact, that for the first time a bishop had been sent 
into the northern parts, must be referred the direction of the Pope at 
this period, as to Canterbury and York. 

St. Paulinus did not lose the opportunity of spreading the Faith, 
which the Providence of God had given him. He quickly converted 
King Edwin to the religion of his queen, and during the eight years, 
from A.D. 625 to A.D. 633, which he spent in the North, his 
activity extended almost to the present borders of Scotland. By 
Easter A.D. 629 the supremacy of Edwin stretched practically 
over the whole of Britain. Bede even ventures to speak of the 
" Empire of the English " which the great Bretwalda had established, 

the Catholic Church in England 21 

and an unwonted peace reigned for a brief space from the Forth 
to the Solent. Under these conditions Paulinus began his 
apostolate. Yorkshire, the centre of Edwin's government, was the 
chief, as it was the first, scene of his work ; but even his personal 
labours were by no means confined to the limits of this great 
county. He first turned to evangelise the part of the country 
where now is modern Lincolnshire ; and here, as at York, a noble 
basilica of stone long remained a monument of his apostolic zeal, 
and an evidence of the firm footing on which he had established the 
Christian religion in those parts. It was here, in the stone church 
at Lincoln, that Paulinus consecrated Honorius to the See of 
Canterbury; and, half a century after his death, there were still 
people at Lincoln who remembered their first Apostle well, and 
who could describe his slight stoop, his emaciated face, his refined 
features, his Roman nose, and though he had been well nigh forty 
years in England his Roman black hair, a contrast to the fair- 
haired English. His was a presence so they said take him all 
in all, inspiring a veneration not unmixed with awe. 

Having made good his position both in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, 
St. Paulinus turned northward to evangelise the people of our 
modern Northumberland. Here his converts were numbered by 
thousands, and when St. Bede wrote a century later the people 
still cherished their remembrances of this period of special 
Providence. It seems to have been one Lent time that the great wave 
of grace swept over the northern country. The now Christian King 
Edwin and his queen were spending the time at a royal habitation 
in the Cheviots and Paulinus was with them. In all probability 
the locality was where now stands the small village of Kirk-Newton in 
the northern Cheviots, and where the dedication of the church to St. 
Gregory, and the existence of a " Gregory hill " and a " Gregory well," 
all immediately connect the place with the memory of the Pope 
who had dispatched St. Paulinus to England. Here, too, local 
tradition still points to the spot whereon stood the royal house of 
Edwin with the stream flowing in front of the site. At this place in 
the far north for six-and-thirty days the Saint devoted his whole 
time and energy to instructing and baptising. The people flocked 
from far and near to listen to the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, 
and from early morning till late evening the Apostle occupied 

22 A Short History of 

himself without remission in his Christian labours, baptising in the 
stream which flowed near the royal residence those whom he had 
instructed in the Faith. In Bede's days, as he tells us and he knew 
this part of the country well though the royal dwelling had long 
been destroyed, the memory of Paulinus' preaching and of the great 
harvest of souls he had gathered to the Lord among the simple 
people of the northern country, was still fresh and green. 

The eight years of Paulinus' work in the North were as full of 
fruit as they were of promise, and Pope Honorius endeavoured to 
create a metropolitan See at York by sending the pallium of an 
Archbishop to him. His plan was Roman. He aimed at estab- 
lishing Christian settlements from north to south of eastern 
England, which at that time was the seat of the dominant power 
in the island. This plan was brought within the range of reali- 
sation through the resumption of the preaching of Christianity in 
East Anglia now our modern Norfolk and Suffolk by St. Felix 
the Burgundian in A.D. 631. Brought over by King Sigebert, on his 
return from exile in Gaul, Felix passed, as it were, his missionary 
noviciate in Canterbury. At his own earnest request Archbishop 
Honorius sent him to resume the work of instructing the peoples 
of East Anglia. From Canterbury too, it would appear, Felix 
brought teachers and masters for his own monastic school. On 
his death, after seventeen energetic and fruitful years of labour 
in this portion of the Lord's vineyard, Archbishop Honorius con- 
secrated his deacon Thomas, a native-born Englishman, to the vacant 
see. Five years later that is, in A.D. 652 upon the death of Bishop 
Thomas, the Archbishop raised to the episcopal dignity in his place a 
Kentish man, Beretgils, to whom was given the Christian and Roman 
name of Boniface. Again, the apostle of Wessex, St. Birinus, 
fresh from Italy, sent by the Pope to aid in the harvest field, and 
especially directed by him to push forward into the inmost recesses 
of the country which had as yet not received the Gospel of Christ, 
would naturally turn to Canterbury to confer with his countrymen 
there and to remain in close alliance with them. 

When Archbishop Honorius died in A.D. 658, for eighteen months 
there was no successor chosen, and then the first Archbishop of 
English birth was elected, in the person of one Frithona, who took 
the name of Deusdedit. By this time, when the Faith was but 

the Catholic Church in England 23 

beginning, and that with difficulty, to establish itself in East Anglia 
and Wessex, and before even the first preachers had been sent into 
Mercia by St. Finan of Lindisfarne, Kent had become in fact, as 
well as in name, a Christian country. The new generation re- 
presented a wholly Christian people. St. Ithamar, the first English- 
man to be raised to the Episcopate, had for some years occupied the 
see of Eochester, and another, a man of Kent, had just become 
Bishop of the East Angles. So great was the progress of the country 
in religious observances and in the principles of law that Earconbert, 
King Ethelbert's grandson, found himself able, by the very authority 
of the law of the State, to impose on all his people the observance 
of the forty days' fasting of Lent, enacting severe penalties for 
transgressions of this commandment of the Christian Church. 

Such was Kent half a century after the coming of our Apostle, 
St. Augustine, and his companions. " You," says the Northumbrian 
Alcuin, addressing the men of Kent " you are the firstf raits, the 
very beginnings of the salvation of the English. In you is the root 
and foundation of our Catholic profession ; among you repose those 
who in their day were the brightest luminaries of our island, through 
whom the day-star of the truth has shone throughout the whole 
of Britain." 

24 A Short History of 



THE Church founded in Northumbria by St. Paulinus with the help of 
St. Edwin, the convert king, quickly suffered great misfortune. In 
A.D. 633 the power of the Bretwalda was broken and his kingdom 
was ravaged. On October 13th of that year he himself perished in 
the battle of Hatfield, which he fought against the combined forces of 
Penda, the pagan king of the Mercians, and his ally Cadwallon, 
the Christian king of the Britons. Actuated by the old race hatred, 
this chief layman of the British Church eclipsed his heathen comrade 
in arms by the ferocity with which he attacked the new-made 
Christians of Northumbria. "Though he had the name and pro- 
fession of a Christian," writes St. Bede, "he was so barbarous in 
disposition and behaviour, that he spared neither the female sex 
nor the innocent age of children. Nor did he pay any regard to 
the Christian religion, which had sprung up amongst them." 

The overthrow of Edwin's power was swift and complete, and 
it involved the temporary ruin of the new-born Church in North- 
umbria. St. Paulinus himself was forced to fly before the ruthless 
invaders, and accompanied Queen Ethelburga by sea back to her 
old home in Kent. Basso, one of the late King Edwin's chief officials, 
also escaped with the royal children, and carried with him to Kent, 
as if in proof of the thorough Christian character of Edwin's kingdom, 
the great golden cross and the golden chalice, consecrated for use 
in the Christian Sacrifice, which in Bede's days were still to be 
seen at Canterbury. St. Paulinus never returned to the North. At 

the Catholic Church in England 25 

the request of Archbishop Honorius, and with the sanction of King 
Eadbald, he filled the see of Kochester which was then vacant, 
and there he died in A.D. 644. 

St. Paulinus' mission in the North came to an end towards the 
close of the year A.D. 633. The date is important if we would 
understand the true course of events in the history of the 
Church in Norfchumbria. For twelve months Penda and Cadwallon 
ravaged the dominions, of the late King Edwin. Before the close 
of A.D. 634, however, St. Oswald had come out of his exile in 
the northern parts of Scotland, and had so beaten back the invaders, 
as to be in a position to restore peace and Christian teaching to 
the country. To him belongs the glory of continuing and extending 
the missions of Paulinus in Northumbria. In his early years St. 
Oswald had found a refuge among the northern Picts ; he had there 
been instructed in the Faith, and received baptism, at the hands of the 
Celtic (Scotic or Irish) monks, who at lona were carrying on the work 
begun by St. Columba in those regions. To these friends of his youth 
Oswald naturally turned to secure religious teachers for his people, 
hoping by their help to consolidate and extend the Christian Church 
which Paulinus had founded during the years of his active missionary 
work. His purpose was to build on the foundations already laid, even 
as in subsequent years he completed and dedicated the stone church 
at York, which the Eoman Apostle of the North had commenced. 
The new labourers thus called into the vineyard of the Lord 
were members of the great Celtic or Irish Church. A few words will 
be necessary to understand what this really means. At the coming of 
St. Augustine, besides the Britons, there were two other Christian 
peoples in this island the Scots and the Picts. Of the first, the Scots, 
St. Prosper says that in A.D. 431 many were followers of Christ, and 
in that year Pope St. Celestine ordained Palladius and sent him 
as bishop " to the Scots who believed in Christ." The real conversion 
of the nation, however, was effected, not long before the coming of St. 
Augustine to Kent, by St. Columba, the great Irish missionary. In 
A.D. 565 that Saint crossed over the sea and settled with his monks 
at lona. The Picts of north and east Caledonia were converted 
by St. Ninian, who was consecrated their bishop in A.D. 394 by Pope 
Siricius. Neither of these two peoples, although engaged in hostilities 
with the Saxons, had, like the Britons, that deep racial hatred 

26 A Short History of 

for them as people who had despoiled them, and still held their 

Like the British Church, the Celtic Churches differed in certain 
points from the discipline of Borne. Like the British Church, too, 
these differences did not pertain to the Faith, but to certain 
practices to which they had been accustomed from their earliest 
teachings, and to which they clung with affectionate pertina- 
city. Mainly if the singular abbatial character of the Columban 
missionary enterprises be disregarded, as they may, since they had no 
place in the subsequent controversies in England the differences 
between the Celtic and the Bornan observances may be reduced to 
the same as those in which the British and the Roman differed: 
namely, the date of Easter and the shape of the clerical tonsure. 
Whatever other variations there may have been in rites and prayers, 
these are admitted to have been slight, and, to use the words of one 
who has made a special study of this subject, it is certain that 
" everything proves that Columba and his followers, however they 
may have differed in some of their customs from other Churches, 
never at any time departed from the Catholic unity in matters of 

In regard to Rome, and the Pope, and the unity of the Christian 
Church the opinion of the Celtic missionaries may be best gauged by 
that of St. Columbanus himself. In a letter written after he had 
settled at Bobbio in Italy the Saint addresses Pope Boniface as the 
' Pastor of pastors." Of himself and his companions he says : " We 
are the scholars of SS. Peter and Paul and of all the disciples, 
subscribing to the Holy Ghost and to the Divine Canon. All are 
Irish, inhabitants of the remotest part of the whole world, receiving 
nothing save what is the angelic and Apostolic doctrine. None of us 
has been a heretic, none a Jew, none a schismatic ; but the Faith, 
just as it was at first delivered by you the successors of the holy 
Apostles, is held unshaken. ... I strive to stir thee up as the prince 
of leaders, for unto thee belongeth the peril of the whole army of the 
Lord. . . . Fearing do I moan unto thee alone, who from among the 
princes art the only hope, having authority through the privileges of 
the Apostle Peter. . . . We are bound (devincti) unto the Chair of 
Peter, for although Rome is great and renowned, through that Chair 
alone is she looked on as great and illustrious amongst us. ... On 

the Catholic Church in England 27 

account of the two Apostles of Christ you are almost celestial, and 
Home is the head of the whole world and of the Churches." 

It was to these sons of Columba, trained at lona in his spirit, that St. 
Oswald of Northuinbria turned in A.D. 634 to obtain religious teachers 
for his people. His first attempt did not prove a success. The 
prelate sent was a man rigorous and inflexible, who proposed to his 
hearers precepts more suitable for the ascetics amongst whom he 
had been trained, than for ordinary Christians of the world. In the 
short space during which he remained amongst them the people 
were not found to respond to his teaching and no wonder 1 He 
returned to his monastic home at lona with a report of his failure, 
and represented the English as a barbarous, stiff-necked and 
intractable race. 

It was then that there appeared on the scene one of the most beautiful 
of the many beautiful characters that meet us in the pages of St. Bede's 
History. St. Aidan comes to us utterly unknown, but portrays himself 
completely in the first words he speaks. He had listened to the 
report of his brother monk about those obstinate English and, though 
discouraged by the account, he could not make up his mind to give 
up all hope of a work undertaken for God and the love of souls. 
"It seems to me, my father," he said, "that you have been over 
rigid with these uninstructed hearers, and, contrary to Apostolic 
practice, have not offered them first the milk of milder doctrine, until 
little by little, strengthened with the Divine Word, they became 
capable of receiving the more perfect counsels and walking in the 
higher paths of virtue." In fact, though he knew it not, the heart of 
Aidan had felt that the methods of the Roman missionaries in the 
field to which St. Oswald had now called the Scotic monks had been 
conceived on sound practical lines. They had proceeded on the plan 
that these English people must be approached by the way of good 
sense and not by that of mere stern precept if the end was to be 
attained. Thus in distant lona, perchance without even having 
heard their names, the Christian charity animating St. Aidan's soul 
already laid the foundation for that respect and affection, which was 
to characterise his relations with the Roman monks, when he was 
later to come into contact with them and their works, during the 
seventeen years of his active missionary life. 

By his own words St. Aidan had unwittingly designated himself as 

28 A Short History of 

the most fit to enter upon the Apostolate in northern England, and 
carry on the work which St. Paulinus had so nobly and seriously 
begun, and from which he had been compelled by events to retire, so 
short a time before. It is pleasant to link in our memories the name 
of the Roman Paulinus with tl\at of the Celtic Aidan as their work 
was linked in reality. So far from history teaching us to see in the 
Roman mission in the South and the Scotic or Irish mission in the 
North two hostile camps or rival "communions," plain facts show 
two bodies of men animated by one sole desire the desire to 
propagate the one Faith of the one Church of Christ. Roman 
or Irish, they knew no other. Roman or Irish, they laboured 
for no other. 

The preaching of the Gospel to the Anglo-Saxon people was, it is 
true, divided between the Celtic and the Roman missionaries, and 
this being so, it was impossible that there should not be frequent 
contact between the two. What was the result ? Whilst the 
Britons " held the religion of the English as nothing and would not in 
anything communicate with them more than they would with 
Pagans," the Romans and the Celts met together and acted together 
in a way that proves beyond question that in the beginning there was 
no enmity between them. St. Birinus, for example, " who had come 
into Britain by the desire of Pope Honorius " made equal use in 
preaching the Gospel of Cynigils, king of the West Saxons, whom he 
had converted and baptised, and of St. Oswald, King of Northumbria, 
the friend of St. Aidan. Though baptised in the Scotic Church and 
an undoubted follower of their Celtic customs, St. Oswald stood 
godfather to Cynigils on his baptism by the Roman Birinus. 
St. Honorius of Canterbury, St. Felix of Dunwich and their 
companions, held St. Aidan in deep veneration. It was with 
St. Aidan's encouragement that King Oswy sought in marriage 
Eanfled, St. Edwin's daughter, who had been educated in Kent. If 
she brought with her a chaplain thence and observed Easter accord- 
ing to the Roman computation, whilst her husband followed the 
Celtic custom, there is nothing ever so slight to indicate that this 
was regarded on either side as a breach of " communion," but only 
as a legitimate concession to the prejudices of early association and 
teaching. James the deacon, St. Paulinus' disciple, never left the 
charge committed to him at York. He remained there during the 

the Catholic Church in England 29 

whole period covered by the Scotic mission till the Synod of Whitby, 
when he was succeeded by the Roman priest who had come to the 
North as Queen Eanfled's chaplain. Lastly, to take one more example 
St. Hilda, Abbess of Whitby, was a convert of St. Paulinus. She 
afterwards lived for a year in a convent in the south, and even 
wished to pass over into France ; she was, however, recalled to the 
north by St. Aidan and made Abbess of Whitby, where in the 
celebrated Synod at that place she took the side of the Celtic 
customs, but bowed to the final decision. 

With the death of St. Aidan, in A.D. 651, we soon begin to feel, as 
we read the pages of St. Bede, the existence of a certain tension. It 
will be sufficient here to note that the ecclesiastical practices on 
which conflicting views arose were the two already named the date 
of the Paschal celebration and the shape of the tonsure. The 
attentive reader of St. Bede's pages can easily gather, however, that 
there were other influences at work. Matters likely to be productive 
of dissension not connected with matters of religion, or rather of 
religious discipline, were really the efficient causes of the subsequent 

In A.D. 651 St. Finan succeeded St. Aidan. So far as can be learnt 
from our history he experienced no more difficulty than his predecessor. 
It was, however, an indiscreet compatriot of theirs, Ronan by name, who 
stirred up all the difficulty. He had heard elsewhere about the new 
Easter and another tonsure, and had adopted them. Accordingly, full 
of his new acquirements, and fired by zeal not tempered by any 
discretion, he attacked the aged St. Finan for his adherence to his old 
customs customs which the venerable man had been taught in his 
childhood at lona, which he reverenced, which he had practised ever 
since, and which he had been allowed to observe in peace, without so 
much as a remonstrance from those who followed the common 
practice taught them by their Roman missionaries. Ronan's vigour 
had, it would seem, borne down the opposition of many of his 
countrymen, and his attacks had led others at least to inquire. This 
measure of success, however, did not satisfy him ; so, paying no heed 
to the venerable age and sacred character of his fellow-countryman, 
he assailed St. Finan, as St. Bede relates, with violence and ferocity. 
The rest was what is to be expected. The old man grew obstinate 
under violence and invective, and would then have it that his way 

30 A Short History of 

alone was right, and that other practices were wrong and should be 

It is unnecessary to pursue the course of the controversy which 
issued in the Synod of Whitby in A.D. 664. The result was final and 
decisive, and it issued in the retirement from Britain of St. Finan's 
successor, St. Colman, and his English and Irish friends. This 
finally closed the thirty years of Celtic missionary labours in 
England. Those of St. Colman' s friends of both races who re- 
mained accepted the common Easter and the Roman tonsure. 
Amongst them were men whose names are held in the deepest 
veneration in the land to this day. It may suffice here to mention 
one name only, that of St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. 

The departure of the Celtic missionaries, who were unwilling to 
submit to the decisions of Whitby, did not, of course, terminate the 
work of the Irish in the formation of the rising Christian Church in 
this country ; those who remained behind in England and conformed 
themselves to the Roman usages were largely instrumental in con- 
Terting and instructing the peoples of the north. Their influence can 
be traced in the native art of the north, in the illuminations and in 
the writings, for a long period after the Synod of Whitby. Above all 
else, they seem to have been destined to foster and consolidate the 
devotional life of the English people. To the staid and measured 
language which always characterised the prayers of the Roman 
Church the Celtic clergy added an element of unction and t^e 
happy expression of devotion and fervour which make the prayers of 
our Saxon forefathers so useful in stimulating the piety of faithful 
souls even of our own times. 

Over all, during this period, there presided the spirit of Rome and 
the Roman Mission. The historical influence exercised by St. Augus- 
tine and his successors in " the making of England " can hardly be 
questioned. The historian Green has fully discerned what the genius 
of Rome did for the country. " Nothing is more characteristic," he 
says, "of Roman Christianity than its administrative organisation. 
Its ordered hierarchy of Bishops, priests, and lower clergy, its judicial 
and deliberative machinery, its courts and its councils had become a 
part of its very existence, and settled with it on every land that it 
won. Gregory, as we have seen, had plotted out the yet heathen 
Britain into an ordered Church, . . . and though the carrying out of 

the Catholic Church in England 31 

this scheme in its actual form had proved impossible, yet it was 
certain that the first effort of the Roman See, now that the ground 
was clear, would be to replace it by some analogous arrangement. 
But no such religious organisation could stamp itself on the English 
soil without telling on the civil organisation about. The regular 
subordination of priest to bishop, of bishop to Primate (and, we 
may add, of Primate to Pope) in the administration of the Church 
would supply a model on which the civil organisation of the State 
would consciously but irresistibly shape itself. The gathering of the 
clergy in national Synods would inevitably lead the way to national 
gatherings for civil legislation. Above all, if the nation in its spiritual 
capacity came to recognise the authority of a single Primate, it would 
insensibly be led in its temporal capacity to recognise a single 
sovereign. . . . The hopes of such an organisation rested in the 
submission of the English States to the Church of Rome." 

To some these words may seem far-fetched and exaggerated ; but 
without this influence of Rome, making for unification, the welding of 
the peoples, and even nations, in this land into the one English folk 
might have been indefinitely postponed. 

32 A Short History of 


THE Synod of Whitby, in A.D. 664, by finally settling all outstanding 
differences, made easy the organisation of the Saxon Church as one 
united whole. Up to this time it had not been possible to cany out 
the plan of St. Gregory, or the later direction of Pope Honorius, for 
the ecclesiastical government of the country. The joint action of 
two kings, representing the north and the south of the country, was 
now a public recognition of the unity of the Church, and an augury 
of what ecclesiastical unity afterwards effected in bringing about 
national unity. 

The See of Canterbury had been vacant for some time, and as no 
election had been made in A.D. 667, Oswy, King of Northumbria, and 
Egbert of Kent took counsel together on " the state of the English 
Church." Although " educated by the Scotch," as St. Bede says, 
" Oswy fully understood that the Roman was the Catholic and 
Apostolic Church," and felt constrained to try and put an end to the 
vacancy in the metropolitical See. As a result of the royal confer- 
ence the two kings "agreed to the election and consent of the 
Church of the English people," which had nominated a priest of 
Canterbury, Wighard, as best fitted to fill the vacant archiepiscopal 
chair. The king forthwith sent the elect to Borne with a request 
that the Pope would consecrate him as "Archbishop of the English." 
This, however, was not to be. Wighard and most of his companions 
were carried off by the plague, and Pope Vitalian wrote to say that 
he would, as soon as possible, himself choose an Archbishop for the 

the Catholic Ch^^rch in England 33 

After a brief delay the Pope, in A.D. 668, appointed and conse- 
crated St. Theodore as " Archbishop of Britain." The new metro- 
politan was a Greek monk, a native of Tarsus in Cilicia, and a man 
of the highest culture and integrity. To him the Church in this 
country was indebted for the establishment of its schools of learning 
and the organisation of its ecclesiastical life on a sound and lasting 
basis. The new Archbishop was accompanied upon his journey to 
England by Abbot Hadrian, upon whom the Pope's choice had first 
fallen, but who had refused the honour, and by St. Benet Biscop, 
a Northumbrian noble, who had lately become a monk, and who, 
being on a visit to Borne, was induced by the Pope to travel back to 
England as their guide. Archbishop Theodore reached Canterbury, 
having been considerably delayed, only on May 27, A.D. 669. After 
the long vacancy of the See there were naturally many matters to 
claim his immediate attention. It was above all things necessary, if 
the Church was to be orderly and organised, to establish the diocesan 
and parochial system in place of that of the vast and ill-defined 
territorial districts, which up to this time had been administered by 
the bishops and priests, and to confine the care of each bishop to his 
own special diocese. 

In some ways circumstances favoured St. Theodore in carrying out 
this great and necessary work. A plague had lately carried off great 
numbers, including many priests and bishops ; so that on his arrival 
the Archbishop found only four bishops in the whole of the country ; 
and one of these, Boniface of East Anglia, died shortly afterwards. 
As was to be expected, Theodore encountered many difficulties and 
much opposition in the prosecution of his design, and some matters 
hard to settle he inherited from the chaotic state of affairs which 
had existed prior to his arrival. The case of St. Wilfrid was one of 
this latter class. Wilfrid was a Northumbrian monk who, having 
spent much time in Eome, became a convert from Celtic customs. 
He was mainly instrumental in bringing about the settlement of the 
disputes at Whitby. Shortly after the Synod he was nominated 
Bishop of Lindisfarne, and, as there was then no Archbishop in the 
country, he was sent to Gaul for consecration by the kings and 
Council at his own request, explicitly for the reason that he would 
find there Catholic bishops in communion with the Holy See. It is 
also noteworthy that the kings and Council insisted that the elect 


34 A Short History of 

should be one " who would desire to himself embrace the discipline 
of the Apostolic See and teach it to others." Wilfrid's absence lasted 
so long that another monk, St. Chad, was appointed and consecrated 
in his stead, and transferred his See from Lindisfarne to York. On 
Wilfrid's return as bishop he 4id not at first insist upon his obvious 
rights ; but acquiesced in the appointment of St. Chad and went for 
a time to his monastery at Ripon. He then started on a missionary 
tour, with the object of securing greater union with Borne. The case, 
however, remained unsettled, and St. Theodore finally had to deal with 
it. He was not long in coming to a decision, and at once bade St. Chad 
resign his See to the rightfully elected bishop, St. Wilfrid. This 
St. Chad did at once without question, and he was subsequently 
made Bishop of Lichfield by the Archbishop. 

It is, of course, impossible here to deal with the question of St. 
Wilfrid's Koman appeals. It should, however, be noted that his first 
and final restoration to his rights was " by the orders of the Apostolic 
See," and "because of the authority of the blessed Pontiffs." His 
diocese was, indeed, divided, but the decision was part of the papal 
judgment, and the portion Wilfrid received was his own choice. 
Moreover, Archbishop Theodore's repentance for his long hostility 
to Saint Wilfrid and their complete reconciliation should not be 

Besides the great work of bringing order and regularity into the 
ecclesiastical government of Britain, which occupied much time and 
attention, St. Theodore was also engaged in establishing centres of 
learning in the country. He began with the school of Canterbury, 
afterwards so celebrated, of which St. Benet Biscop became the 
first master, and in which the Archbishop himself taught Sacred 
Scripture. Subsequently Biscop founded other monastic schools at 
Wearmouth and Jarrow, which the name of Venerable Bede, the 
historian of our race, has immortalised by his vast learning and 
sound scholarship. 

In A.D. 673 Theodore held his first Synod at Hertford. He there 
introduced himself as: " I, Theodore, appointed Bishop of Canter- 
bury by the Apostolic See." This was recognised by all; and even 
Wilfrid, in the midst of the quarrels, fully acknowledged Theodore as 
papal representative in England. " I do not dare to accuse him," he 
said, " because he is sent by the Apostolic See." 

the Catholic Church in England 35 

Ten years after Theodore's arrival in Britain, in A.D. 678, Pope 
Agatho formally approved of the organisation established by the 
Archbishop in the Saxon Church, and confirmed the subdivision of 
the large territorial districts into which till this time the land had 
been divided. The hierarchy was now to consist of one metropolitan 
and eleven suffragans. The year following this, A.D. 679, St. Bede 
relates a striking proof of the unity of the Faith, which within three- 
quarters of a century from the death of St. Augustine, existed 
throughout the entire country, although it was still divided into 
several kingdoms. Archbishop Theodore assembled the first Pro- 
vincial Synod at Hatfield, and the Abbot of St. Martin's at Rome 
attended as the representative of the Pope, having been charged " to 
inform himself concerning the faith of the English Church, so as to 
give an account thereof on his return to Rome." Pope Agatho 
wished to inquire "in Britain, as in other provinces of the Christian 
world," whether " the Church was all knit together in the one 
Faith." The Archbishop of Canterbury consequently, in the pre- 
sence of the papal legate, " inquired into the doctrine of each prelate, 
and found all unanimously agreed in the Catholic Faith." A copy of 
this unanimous profession of the English Church was given to the 
Abbot legate to be carried to Rome, and there, as St. Bede relates, 
" it was most thankfully received by the Apostolic Pope and all who 
heard it." 

Archbishop Theodore died in A.D. 690, having fully accomplished the 
work for England which God's Providence had designed. The dis- 
position of the English hierarchy under one Archbishop at Canterbury, 
which was decreed by Pope Agatho on the advice of St. Theodore, 
remained for a long while undisturbed. About A.D. 783, however, the 
then Bishop of York, Egbert, was urged by his old master St. Bede 
to apply to the Pope to have the original plan of St. Gregory the 
Great for a second metropolitan see at York carried out. Two years 
later, in A.D. 735, Pope Gregory III. granted the application, sent the 
pallium to Egbert and raised York to the rank of the metropolitical 
church of a northern province: this disposition of the Church in 
England into two provinces practically remained unchanged till the 
eve of the Reformation. There was, however, one exception when 
for a brief period, more from political motives than to meet any 
need of the Church, Ofta, the powerful King of Mercia, obtained the 

36 A Short History of 

temporary dismemberment of the southern province by the creation 
of Lichfield as a third metropolitan see, with the other Mercian sees 
as suffragan. This was immediately after the Legatine Councils at 
which the legates George and Theophylact received the obedience of 
all the English bishops about A.Q. 787, and it was only obtained by the 
king, as William of Malmesbury states, after he had " wearied (the 
Pope, Adrian) for a long time with plausible assertions." Higbert, 
the new metropolitan, was, however, the first and last Archbishop of 
Lichfield. A few years later Pope Leo III. was approached by Ethel- 
heard, the Archbishop, on the matter, and the English prelates also 
represented to the King of Mercia the unjust and impolitic action of 
his predecessor in obtaining the division of the Canterbury province. 
King Kenulph of Mercia thereupon wrote two letters to the Pope 
leaving the decision entirely to his wisdom, since as he said he 
"deemed it fitting to have due regard in ail things to St. Peter, 
the chief of the Apostles, and to submit with meekness to all 
Apostolical Constitutions." He protested that he was " ready even 
to lay down his life" for Pope Leo, "for the sake of the Apostolic 
office," and declared that "no Christian could presume to run 
counter to Leo's Apostolic decisions." Pope Leo's verdict, in 
A.D. 802, abolished the privilege of Lichfield and reinstated Canter- 
bury as the sole metropolitan see of the south. Writing as to this 
decision to King Kenulph the Pontiff says : " We have bestowed 
on the Archbishop of Canterbury such a prelateship that if any 
of his subjects kings, princes, or peoples transgress his precept 
in the Lord, he shall excommunicate the offender till he is 

To complete the story of this episode in the history of the Anglo- 
Saxon Church, it is necessary to refer to the great Council of Clove - 
shoe, held a few years later, in A.D. 803. The preamble of its acts 
recites that " the Apostolic Pope had sent into Britain an authoritative 
precept of his prerogative, commanding the honour of St. Augustine's 
see to be restored, with all its dioceses, just as St. Gregory, the 
Apostle and master of our race, had arranged." To carry out this 
ordinance the assembled prelates, "with the co-operation of God and 
the Apostolic Lord, Pope Leo," confirmed the Primacy to Canterbury. 
And, moreover, "with the consent and licence of the Apostolic 
Lord, Pope Leo," they declared the archiepiscopal dignity, granted 

the Catholic Church in England 37 

by Pope Adrian toLichfield, to be abrogated " because it was procured 
by surreptitious and unfair suggestions." 

At the time of this Council of Cloveshoe two centuries had elapsed 
since St. Augustine had set foot on English soil. The Church he 
came to establish was now fully organised and developed. What the 
Faith of this Church was, and how closely it clung to Rome as the 
centre of Unity, may be known by an incident recorded as having 
taken place in that meeting, at which many nobles as well as bishops 
and abbots of the province were present. Ethelheard, the Archbishop 
of Canterbury, rising up in the assembly publicly put this question : 
" What was the Catholic Faith they held ; what was the Christianity 
which they practised ? " " With one voice," we read, " they replied : 
1 Be it known to your Paternity that the Faith we hold is that which 
was planted hi the beginning by the Holy, Roman and Apostolic See, 
under the direction of the most blessed Pope Gregory ; and what 
we believe without wavering, we are anxious to practise as far 
as we can.' " 

In rapidly sketching the growth of the Church in England many 
items of great interest in its history have necessarily been passed 
over without notice. To make the story of this time at all complete, 
or to attempt to give details is obviously impossible within the narrow 
limits of these few pages : one or two incidents only can be touched 
upon. The name of Archbishop Egbert (735-766) has been already 
mentioned as having obtained the pallium for the Church of York. 
Besides having been the pupil of St. Bede his chief claim to remem- 
brance, is that, under the influence of his master, he established a great 
school at York on the model of Canterbury, to which flocked scholars 
from Gaul and Germany. From the York school came the celebrated 
Alcuin (735-800), the great master mind which directed the revival 
of letters under Charlemagne and relit the lamp of learning through- 
out the Prankish dominions. 

No more certain token of a lively faith can be found in a Church or 
a nation than the missionary zeal and enterprise which seeks to carry 
the blessings of the Gospel to those still ignorant of it. It is con- 
sequently the best proof of the complete Catholic tone and temper 
of the Anglo-Saxon Church that, when by the close of the seventh 
century it was fully established in the soil of England and in the 
hearts of the people, eager missionaries were ready at the peril of 


38 A Short History of 

their lives to preach Christ Crucified to those who, in the impenetrable 
forests of Germany and the inhospitable lands of Northern Europe, 
were still buried in the darkness of paganism. Among such glorious 
messengers of peace from our race may be named St. Willibrord 
(653-739), the Apostle of Frisia, and St. Boniface (680-755), the 
Apostle of Germany, with their English companions. What they 
achieved in the service of the Gospel and civilisation is written large 
on the early pages of German history. 

All during the first two centuries that followed the conversion of 
our Anglo-Saxon forefathers to the Faith, which may well be called 
the golden age of the Saxon Church, the Catholic religion and the 
Catholic spirit was ever gaining deeper hold on the minds of the 
people and striking stronger roots in their hearts. Churches were built 
and beautified. Monasteries and convents, where "the more perfect 
way" could be followed and protection was afforded from the rough 
surroundings of a young civilisation, sprung up all over the face of 
the land. The catalogue of names even of these havens of rest and 
peace would be too long to print here, as also would be the list of holy 
men and women who were recognised as special servants of God, and 
who made this island glorious by their virtues and illustrious in the 
annals of the Christian Church. God's call to the cloister was not 
confined to the ordinary people, but nobles and even kings and 
queens received it and unhesitatingly answered the summons. 
Ethelred. King of Mercia, Cenred, who succeeded him, Offa of East 
Anglia, and many others exchanged their crowns for the monk's 
cowl. St. Edith and numerous other holy nuns were daughters of 
kings who preferred the cloister to the palace. Cadwalla resigned 
his throne to go to Rome and the tombs of the Apostles ; he died 
there a few days after receiving Christian baptism. Ina of Wessex 
and his Queen Ethelburga followed Cad walla's example and ended 
their days in the Eternal City; and, writes Bede, "in these tunes 
numbers of English, nobles and members of the humbler classes, 
laity, clergy, men and women vied with each other in journeying to 
the limina Apostoloriun, desiring to pass their earthly pilgrimage 
near the holy places so as to deserve to be received more lovingly 
by the Saints in Heaven." The convents and monasteries established 
in England became centres of learning and civilisation, and in the 
shelter of their walls were cultivated all the arts of peace. Sculpture, 

the Catholic Church in England 39 

church building and decoration, painting, embroidery, and above all 
the art of multiplying manuscripts and of writing books to which 
we who live to-day are indebted for the preservation of ancient 
learning, all formed part of the work done in God's cause for 
civilisation and progress in the monastic retreats which our Anglo- 
Saxon ancestors loved to build to the honour of His name. From 
Italy and Gaul, and especially from Rome, pilgrims to the shrines of 
the Saints brought back precious volumes of classical and Christian 
literature. Wilfrid and Benet Biscop, Theodore and Hadrian, with 
Ethelbert of York and Alcuin, are all of them national benefactors in 
this regard. Even to-day the influence of the literary treasures 
they collected with such labour and preserved with such care may be 
traced in our own civilisation. 

No feature of the wonderful Anglo-Saxon Church, however, is 
perhaps more remarkable than its devotion to Rome and the tombs 
of the Apostles. The churches of England were often constructed 
after the model of the Roman basilicas ; and frequently in the books 
written during this period in England may be seen noted the exact 
measurements of the great church of St. Peter and other Roman 
sanctuaries. It was to Rome that the steps of pilgrims were turned 
in numbers that now seem almost impossible. St. Benet Biscop, 
for instance, went five times to the Eternal City, St. Wilfrid three 
times or more, in spite of the dangers and difficulties of the road and, 
in those days, the terrors of the Alpine passes during the winter 
snows. The correspondence of St. Boniface alone proves that in the 
eighth century the roads to the Eternal City were well nigh as 
frequented by Anglo-Saxon pilgrims of every class and degree 
as they are to-day. 

Of the religious beliefs and practices and devotions of our Anglo- 
Saxon forefathers it is perhaps hardly necessary to speak. They 
were essentially what ours are to-day. Their belief in the Eucha- 
ristic Sacrifice, as the centre of Christian life and the supreme act of 
Christian worship, is evidenced by their churches and their altars and 
vestments. Numerous altars were erected in every one of the larger 
churches : the Mass was always said in Latin, and it was offered for 
the living and the dead. The Saxon Catholics received the Blessed 
Sacrament in the Mass under both kinds, but out of Mass, as we do 
to-day, in one kind, believing that under the form of bread after Con- 

40 A Short History of 

secration there was ever really and substantially present the Body, 
Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Saviour Jesus Christ. No belief 
is so clearly manifested in Saxon times as that of Purgatory. Our 
Saxon forefathers followed many religious customs and devotional 
practices founded upon this doctrine : the dying, for example, asked 
to be prayed for, the living offered up prayers for the dead and joined 
in pious associations with that object. Monasteries and churches 
were built where perpetual remembrances in the daily prayers 
might be made for the departed friends and relations of the 
founder and the Sacrifice of the Mass offered for their souls. The 
reverence paid to the consecrated churchyard, which was called 
u God's acre," was due to the lively faith of the Saxon Christians 
in their certain belief in the Resurrection of the Dead at the day 
of the great "doom." Of the devotion of these simple people to the 
Angels and Saints there can be no manner of doubt. They prayed 
for their intercession and invoked their aid. They loved to depict 
them in their paintings and carvings, and in the case of the Saints to 
reverence their relics and recall the memory of their life of service 
in this world as an encouragement to them to tread in their footsteps. 
Above every other English devotion of that time in its intensity and 
universality which the Anglo-Saxon people enthusiastically adopted, 
next to their worship of the Redeemer, was the veneration of the 
Virgin Mother of God. It is impossible to doubt its genuine reality ; 
impossible to exaggerate the intensity and childlike confidence with 
which Catholic England in Saxon times invoked our Lady and had 
recourse with lively faith to her patronage. In a word, turn where 
we will in all the memorials of the religious life, literary or artistic, 
that have come down to us, the word " Catholic " is written plainly 
and indelibly upon every record. Even to understand their language 
fulty and to interpret their meaning truly the student must first learn 
his lesson in the Catholic Church of to-day. 

Unfortunately the glorious religious condition of England during 
the eighth century did not continue. The Church, like the country, 
had its troubles and difficulties and its time of obscurity. During the 
first three-quarters of the ninth century both the one and the other 
had to pass through a long period of storm and strife. The Vikings 
from Denmark and the north began to gather on the shores of this 
island, and gradually the cloud of their depredations spread till 

the Catholic Church in England 41 

almost the whole country was shrouded in darkness and desolation. 
Churches, monasteries, and convents were cast down into the dust, 
and heaps of smoking ruins marked the paths of the pagan invaders. 
Bishops and priests, monks and nuns, besides the Christian people, 
fell victims to the hatred and lust of the Northern pirates in such 
numbers, that it must have seemed in those days as if Providence 
had destined the land to return once more to paganism. When all 
seemed blackest and religion and learning had apparently sunk to the 
lowest ebb, God raised up men to effect a regeneration. In regard to 
the Church, about which alone we are here concerned, first and fore- 
most must undoubtedly be named Duiistan of Glastonbury. What 
he did for England and the restoration of religious and ecclesiastical 
life can never now be known, though it was well understood at the 
time and recognised for generations after in the universal reverence 
paid to his name. He found State and Church materially and morally 
in ruins, he left it prosperous and organised. As monk and states- 
man and archbishop his indomitable energy and his extraordinary 
capacities were devoted to the work of restoring the Church of the 
English to its ancient glory and at the same time consolidating the 
power of the nation. He was assisted in his work by other great 
men whose names ought to be remembered with gratitude by all 
Englishmen. Such are St. Ethelwold and St. Oswald, not to name 
King Edgar, who in every way seconded their efforts for religion and 

The labours of St. Dunstan worked wonders, not merely during 
his lifetime and for the restoration of the monastic system, but for 
the general regeneration of ecclesiastical life. The impetus given, 
by his unbounded energy, continued long after he had gone to 
his reward. The minsters and churches destroyed by the Danes 
were everywhere restored, and the means of again practising the 
Christian life and taking part in the Christian worship were afforded 
to the people. The new life was manifested by fresh missionary 
enterprises, and efforts were made to impart religious instruction 
everywhere to the people. For example, in the Canons of Edgar, 
which may certainly be attributed to Dunstan, the parochial clergy 
are enjoined to preach to their flocks every Sunday, whilst the same 
duty was urged upon them by Aelfric, who likewise furnished them, in 
his Book of Homilies, with material for their homely discourses, 

42 A Short History of 

Besides this legislation as to instruction, what are known as the 
Canons of Aelfric (A.D. 970), afford us a good deal of insight into the 
religious practices of the Saxon Church. The celibacy of the clergy 
was strictly enjoined. The four minor and three major Orders 
were in existence, and they had to be given by the bishop, who was 
likewise to confirm children and consecrate churches with holy 
unction. The priest was to offer up the Holy Sacrifice in these 
consecrated churches only, and the sacred vestments for Mass 
and the cloths for the altars are specially legislated for. The priests 
and other sacred ministers were bound to the daily recitation of the 
Divine Office in its sevenfold division. The Sacraments were to 
be administered to the faithful without fee or charge, and Holy 
Viaticum, Extreme Unction, and Confession, are particularly men- 
tioned. Finally, to name one more point : the tithes of the 
faithful were to be divided into three portions one for the main- 
tenance of the Church, another for the poor, and the third for the 
support of the priest. All this is confirmed and strengthened by the 
" Laws " of A.D. 994, which speak of the care that must be taken to 
have the bread and wine for the Eucharist spotless in their cleanness, 
and also order water to be mingled with the wine at the Sacrifice. 
These laws too, bade people pray to the Saints, and in particular 
to Our Blessed Lady, and to make frequent use of the Sign of the 
Cross ; to observe Lent in its fasting and abstinence ; to go to Con- 
fession at least once in the year, and to Holy Communion each 
Sunday during Lent, and frequently at other times in the year; 
but always with careful preparation, remembering that it is "the 
Communion of the Body and Blood of the Lord." 

After St. Dunstan's death, a third Danish invasion afflicted the 
country and the Church. A cowardly massacre of the Danes on 
St. Brice's day, A.D. 1002, brought the Northmen over in such 
numbers that they ultimately set up their own sovereign in England. 
From A.D. 1016 to 1042 a Danish dynasty, in the person of Canute 
and his two sons, ruled the country with a rod of iron, and the people 
were glad to welcome back a king of the Saxon line in the person of 
Edward the Confessor. He was virtuous and gentle ; but neither 
wise nor strong in his government of the country. Still, under him 
there were twenty-four years of peace, and although his foreign 
education made him lean upon foreign advisers and appoint them 

the Catholic Church in England 43 

to place and position in Church and State, the people certainly in after 
years looked back to his reign as to a time of happiness ; when 
under the iron rule of their Norman masters, they frequently sighed 
for "the laws of good King Edward." For his Christian virtues 
St. Edward was canonised by popular acclamation, and his shrine at 
Westminster quickly became the centre of national devotion. 

44 A Short History of 




WILLIAM the Conqueror successfully asserted his claim to the English 
crown at the Battle of Hastings in A.D. 1066. The modern idea 
of national Churches being then wholly unknown, the conquest of 
England made of course no change in the religion of the country. By 
skilful misrepresentation William had indeed won over the Pope 
to his side, and had invested his expedition with something of the 
glamour of a holy war undertaken for religion. 

In behalf of the Norman contention it had been urged at Home 
that Harold had broken his oath, and was thus a public perjurer 
to be punished by authority, and probably also, that Stigand, who 
then occupied the Chair of Canterbury, had supported Benedict, 
the anti-Pope. For these and other reasons Alexander II. was 
induced to give his blessing to the invasion, and even to consecrate a 
banner to be unfurled when the Norman army set foot in England. 
The religious aspect of the undertaking was further suggested in a 
vow made by the Conqueror to build an abbey on the site of his 
victory ; and Battle Abbey to-day records the fulfilment of his 

Although the Conquest made no difference in religion it caused 
a considerable displacement of the bishops and other ecclesiastics 

the Catholic Church in England 45 

who then ruled the Church in England. No sooner had William I. 
made his position secure than at his request the Pope sent over 
two Cardinal legates to preside at a Council and deal with some 
pressing ecclesiastical business. They arrived early in A.D. 1070> 
and convoked a Synod at Winchester for the Eastertide of that 
year. Writing to summon St. Wulstan, Bishop of Worcester, 
to attend the meeting the legates say that they are holding it 
"in behalf of the Lord Pope," since to "the Roman Church belongs 
the duty " of watching " over all Christians." St. Wulstan attended 
and put in his claim for the restoration of certain property belonging 
to his See. The main business of the meeting, however, related to 
the case of Archbishop Stigand, against whom certain canonical 
offences were charged. The Legates, at the end of the inquiry, 
deposed him from his office and declared the metropolitical See 
of Canterbury vacant. On leaving England at the conclusion of 
their business, the Cardinals took with them to Rome the " pence of 
St. Peter," which had been collected and " which of right belonged to 
the Apostolic purse." 

The case of Stigand was but the first of a long series of depri- 
vations of the Saxon prelates. Step by step the Conqueror got rid 
of most of the English bishops. St. Wulstan of Worcester, if legend 
speaks truly, was saved from expulsion only by a manifestation 
of supernatural protection. In the same way the abbots of many 
monasteries and other high ecclesiastical officials were made to 
resign, or otherwise disposed of, that room might be made for 

William I. obtained from the Pope the appointment of the great 
and devout Lanfranc, one of the most learned ecclesiastics then 
living, as Archbishop of Canterbury. He had long been the adviser 
of the Conqueror as Abbot of Bee in Normandy, and twenty years 
before his elevation to the See of Canterbury he had defended the 
Catholic doctrine of the Blessed Sacrament against Berengar of Tours 
at a Council in Rome (A.D. 1050). He there with incomparable 
learning maintained that by the ministry of the priest the Divine 
Power changed the substance of the bread into the substance of Our 
Lord's Body, the accidents, or qualities, still remaining. In the 
controversy which followed Lanfranc became recognised as the 
Catholic champion, and defended the orthodox teaching in several 

46 A Short History oj 

Councils, besides composing a book upon the subject of Transub- 

After first refusing the offer of the Archbishopric of Canterbury, 
Lanfranc yielded under pressure as a matter of duty, and coming 
over to England was consecrated by the Bishop of London in the 
presence of eight other bishops?, on August 29, A.D. 1070. His policy 
as primate undoubtedly tended to exalt the Church in this country. 
One most important and obvious effect of the Conquest was to bring 
the English Church into still closer connection with the Church on the 
Continent ; another was to separate the ecclesiastical from the civil 
law, to remove the clerical subjects of the king from the jurisdiction 
of the ordinary courts of justice and make them subject to their own 
ecclesiastical tribunals. All this Lanfranc effected during his 

Almost immediately after his own consecration the Archbishop 
was called upon to consecrate Thomas of Bayeux to the See of York. 
The Archbishop refused to impose hands upon him unless Thomas 
would acknowledge the obedience of York to Canterbury. After 
some delay, the question was deferred to a suitable occasion and 
Lanfranc bestowed the episcopal consecration on this condition. 
In A.D. 1071 both Archbishops went to Rome to obtain their 
palliuins, and Lanfranc was received with special affection by 
Alexander II. as his old master. The case at issue between the 
two Archbishops was argued before the Pope, and in the course of 
the Archbishop of Canterbury's speech, he took occasion to profess 
his belief in the Divine commission to rule the Church bestowed 
upon the Roman Pontiffs in the person of St. Peter. "Of truth," 
he said, "it is engrained in the consciences of all Christians 
(that Christ) gave nothing less to his successors than He gave to 
St. Peter. Hence a dispensation in all ecclesiastical matters is only 
valid if it has been approved by the judgment of the successors of 
St. Peter." 

In a letter also, written at a subsequent date to Pope Gregory VII., 
Lanfranc addresses him as "the revered supreme pastor of the 
universal Church," and declares that he " certainly does not question, 
and does not think any one questions," that it was "by the 
authority of the Apostolic See " that he was raised to the dignity of 
Archbishop of Canterbury. 

the Catholic Church in England 47 

During his tenure of office Archbishop Lanfranc had frequent 
recourse to Synods to regulate the affairs of the Church, and to 
improve the somewhat chaotic condition in which the rapidity of the 
Conquest, and the systematic substitution of foreign ecclesiastics for 
the native clergy, had naturally left it. As a monk himself, he dealt 
especially with the monasteries, which apparently were the centres of 
the old national feeling ; and besides drawing up a set of excellent and 
minute Constitutions to regulate Benedictine observance, in numerous 
cases he replaced the English superiors by abbots brought from 
beyond the seas. The English chronicler, on account of his labours 
to improve monastic discipline, calls him "the father and lover 
of monks." Although he necessarily placed foreigners in all 
ecclesiastical positions, to further the policy of the Conqueror in the 
settlement of the country, he quickly assumed the position of an 
Englishman, writing of " we English " and " our island." He outlived 
William I. and, although reluctantly, crowned William Eufus at 
Canterbury on December 26, A.D. 1087. In the rebellion of Odo 
Bishop of Bayeux and the Norman lords, the following year, 
Lanfranc and his suffragans generally stood by the new King. In 
November, A.D. 1088, after the rebellion was stamped out, Lanfranc 
attended the King's court at Salisbury for the trial of William de 
Saint Calais, Bishop of Durham, who endeavoured to shelter himself 
from condemnation under his spiritual character. In the course of the 
proceedings the Archbishop drew a clear distinction between the 
spiritual position of a bishop and his position as holding temporalities 
from the King in his capacity of a Baron, and he implied that the 
bishop stood there to be tried not as a bishop, but as one of the King's 
tenants-in- chief, and that the bishops, who with others were trying 
him, were not doing so as bishops, but as members of the King's 

Lanfranc died on May 24, 1089. He had been seized by a fever at 
Canterbury, and his physicians ordered him to take a draught of 
medicine ; out of reverence he delayed doing so until after he had 
received the Blessed Sacrament, and this is said to have hastened 
his end. The Archbishop had spent the revenues of his See with 
great munificence. The cathedral church of Canterbury had been 
burned in A.D. 1067, and, in seven years from his elevation to the 
Archbishopric, Lanfranc had rebuilt it in the Noriuan style. It was 

48 A Short History of 

cruciform, with two great western towers and a central lantern. 
The nave had eight bays, the roof was pointed, and the church was 
furnished with a profusion of sacred vestments all his gift. His 
example, and in many instances his generosity, caused the erection, 
in this and the two following reigns, of numerous majestic churches, 
some of which to this day staYid as monuments of the lofty ideas of 
their builders, and of the faith of men who would raise such temples, 
and who thought nothing too good for the place where the Christian 
Sacrifice of the Mass was to be offered to God with due reverence 
and solemnity. Many of these churches, of course, have perished, 
but those that remain are sufficient to speak of their departed 
glory. Such, for example, are St. Albans, the nave and transept 
of Ely, portions of Carlisle Cathedral, the great naves of Durham, 
Gloucester, Peterborough, Norwich, Tewkesbury Abbey and Waltham 

During the episcopate of Lanfranc some slight difficulty arose 
between the King and the Roman officials as to the punctual pay- 
ment of Peter's pence. This annual donation had been made from 
the days of King Ina, and before the year A.D. 1000 the Popes had 
agreed upon the manner of collection, and a definitely apportioned 
sum had been settled for each diocese to contribute. It is clear, 
however, that only about one-third of the actual contributions made 
by the English people ever found their way to Rome. In A.D. 1074, 
Pope Gregory VII. in a letter to King William invited him to see to 
the punctual payment of this donation, and tells him "he will find 
St. Peter a loving and not unmindful debtor." Two years later, 
apparently, the money had still not been paid, for the Pope, in 
A.D. 1076, sent his legate Hubert to the King to ask for more exact 
payment, and further to suggest that as he, the Conqueror, had in 
some measure obtained his kingdom through the Pope, he should 
take an oath of fealty to him in temporal matters, as a vassal to his 
over-lord, like the heads of some other States who had entered into 
this relation with the Holy See. To the second request the King 
returned a categorical refusal, saying that he owed no fealty in 
temporals to the Pope, but he promised to see to the Peter's pence. 
The delay had been caused, he said, by his own absence from England, 
when the money had been negligently collected. Some portion of 
the arrears then due was sent at once by the hands of the legate, 

the Catholic Church in England 49 

and William undertook that Archbishop Lanfranc should faithfully 
transmit the rest, as soon as it could be obtained from the 

When Lanfranc died in A.D. 1089 William Bufus began to show 
himself in his true character. He kept the See of Canterbury vacant 
for more than three years that he might himself enjoy the revenues 
with which it was endowed. Other bishops and abbots died, and 
he took possession of the lands and endowments of those Sees and 
monasteries for the same purpose. It was only after he became 
seriously ill that he consented to allow the vacant prelacies to be 
filled. For Canterbury the name of the saintly and illustrious 
St. Anselm, Lanfranc's successor as Abbot of Bee, was suggested 
and met with general approval. The King consented, and sent 
for him to England. Anselm complied, but repeatedly refused 
the proffered honour, and only upon great importunity at last 
gave way and was consecrated at Canterbury on December 4, 
A.D. 1093. 

From the outset of Anselm's episcopate there were ever-increasing 
difficulties and quarrels with the King, who had now recovered his 
health and repented of his previous repentance. Matters became 
more serious at the end of the first year, when Anselm proposed 
to proceed to Rome to receive his pallium from the Pope 
" according," as he said, " to the custom of my predecessors." 
William demanded to whom he was going, as at that time there 
was an anti-Pope ; and upon Anselm's reply that he acknowledged 
only Pope Urban, the King declared that he had himself not yet 
determined who was the rightful claimant to the papacy, and 
would permit no one to anticipate his decision, or acknowledge any 
Pope without his leave. In common with the whole Norman 
Church, St. Anselm before coining to England had already been 
in communion with Pope Urban, and he consequently declared 
that " it would be a grave matter to have to deny the Vicar of St. 
Peter, and a grave thing to have to break the oath of fidelity made 
to the King." In this dilemma a Council was called in March, A.D. 
1095, and the opinion of the bishops was asked by the Archbishop, 
as to his duty under the circumstances. The suffragans were 
unwilling to commit themselves to any policy which might involve 
them in difficulties with the King, and refused to give any advice 


50 A Short History of 

at all. St. Anselm thereupon told them that he intended to act 
according to his conscience. "I will betake myself to the Chief 
Shepherd and Head of all, to the Angel of the great Council, and 
will follow the advice which I shall receive from Him in my cause, 
yea rather in His cause and that of His Church. In the things 
which are God's I will give obedience to the Vicar of the Blessed 
Peter, and in things touching the earthly dignity of my lord the 
King, I will, to the best of my ability, give him my faithful counsel 
and help." As the matter proceeded the position and the issue 
became absolutely clear, and St. Anselm refused " to renounce his 
obedience to the sovereign pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church," 
at the bidding of the King, as William desired that he should. 
This was a matter for the Church to decide, he said, and not for 
the State; and in taking this attitude he protested that he did 
not in any way violate his allegiance to his earthly sovereign. The 
nobles appear to have seen the point at issue even more clearly 
than did the bishops, and in reply to William's demand that they 
should have nothing to do with Anselm, they said, " He is our 
Archbishop ; to him pertains the rule of Christianity in this land, 
and in this respect we cannot, whilst we live here as Christians, 
refuse his guidance." 

The question dragged on for some time without definite settlement. 
Meanwhile William had devised a scheme for getting rid of Anselm. 
He despatched his envoys to Rome, who in his name and that of 
England acknowledged Urban as rightful Pope. They then persuaded 
the Pontiff, as they thought, to send the pallium for the Archbishop, 
to the King. It was not, however, given into their hands, but Cardinal 
Walter, Bishop of Albano, came with the messengers, in order to 
bring the sacred insignia of the archiepiscopal office to England with 
due honour. On landing, the Cardinal was hurried by the King's 
officials to London. He was not allowed to tarry at Canterbury, 
or even to speak to St. Anselm, before he had been interviewed 
by the King, who had been encouraged by reports from his envoys 
to hope that his design had succeeded. The acknowledgment of Urban 
as Pope was now ordered by the King to be made throughout the 
kingdom, and he then broached his design, asking the legate to 
declare St. Anselm deposed from his office, and promising a large 
annual subsidy to the Pope if this were granted. The Cardinal, 

the Catholic Church in England 51 

of course, flatly refused the royal request. Rufus saw that he was 
foiled, and at once, making a virtue of necessity, consented to at 
least an outward show of reconciliation. Anselm was now 
importuned by the King's friends to propitiate William by a 
present of money and by declaring his willingness to receive his 
pallium from the hands of his sovereign. He refused to do either, 
and the King had to content himself as best he might. On 
Sunday, June 10, A.D. 1095, the legate brought the pallium in 
a silver casket to Canterbury, where he was met near the 
Cathedral by St. Anselm barefooted, but vested in full pontificals 
and attended by his suffragans. The sacred pledge of his 
archiepiscopal jurisdiction, "from the body of St. Peter," was 
laid upon the altar from which it was taken by the Archbishop 

It was in this same year, A.D. 1095, that the series of great 
expeditions for the recovery of the Holy Land, known as the 
Crusades, was initiated by the Pope. At Clermont on November 18, 
Urban himself preached on the utility and necessity of this 
movement. The hearts of Christians were stirred with a desire 
to take part in the glorious work, which the Pope declared a 
religious obligation on all. Robert of Normandy, in order to do 
his part, mortgaged his dominions to his brother William Rufus, 
who to raise the money demanded it of the English clergy. They 
in turn were obliged to pledge or to sell many of the most precious 
and sacred treasures of their churches. 

Two years passed, and the truce between the King and the 
Archbishop remained outwardly undisturbed. They were not, 
however, altogether years of peace for St. Anselm, because he saw 
many things amiss in the state of the Church in England, which 
demanded reform and claimed his attention as Archbishop. The 
King would listen to no admonition nor would he afford his help, 
and so Anselm was powerless. At length he saw that the only 
chance lay in an appeal to the Pope, and he demanded the King's 
leave to go to Rome. This was curtly refused. He was, moreover, 
asked to promise never to appeal to the Pope, and was told that 
should he venture to leave England, the King would never again 
look on him as Archbishop, and would at once take possession of 
the property of his See. Anselm had made up his mind as to his 

52 A Short History of 

duty, and did not waver. His reply was to the point : " You wish 
me to swear never on any account to appeal in England to Blessed 
Peter or his Vicar. This, I say, ought not to be the command of 
you who are a Christian, for to swear this is to abjure Blessed Peter. 
He who abjures Blessed Peter undoubtedly abjures Christ, who 
made him prince over His Church." This was at the beginning 
of October, A.D. 1097, and by the end of the month the Archbishop 
was on his way to Rome. 

St. Anselm was received in the Eternal City with every demonstra- 
tion of affection by Pope Urban and the Roman Court. He 
devoted much time in his enforced idleness to his old studies, and 
he composed whilst in exile his celebrated treatise on the Incarna- 
tion " Cuv Deus homo ? " He attended several meetings and 
Councils in the Eternal City, at which the great reputation he had 
for learning, and his sufferings and exile for his duty, gained him an 
honourable place and hearing. Nothing, however, was done in the 
cause of his appeals except the Pope's proposed excommunication 
of William Rufus, which is said to have been hindered at the 
Archbishop's own intercession. In July, A.D. 1099, Pope Urban 
died ; and on August 2, A.D. 1100, William himself fell in the New 
Forest, killed by an arrow from an unknown hand. At the 
invitation of the new King, Henry I., Anselm returned at once 
to England, which he reached on September 23, A.D. 1100. He was 
received by the King with every demonstration of affection, but he 
was at once confronted with fresh difficulties. Henry wished him 
to do homage for the restitution of the temporalities of the See of 
Canterbury, which had now for three years been in the royal hands. 
Anselm was pledged to the decrees of the recent Councils at Bari 
and Rome, which forbade ecclesiastics to receive investiture from 
laymen, or to do homage for their benefices. Henry was unwilling 
to surrender the old customs of the kingdom, and St. Anselm, 
although he does not seem to have had much real objection to the 
customs in question, was bound by his obedience to the Holy See. 
The matter remained unsettled for some considerable time. Envoys 
were despatched to the Pope to endeavour to get some relaxation 
of the decrees, but in regard to the investiture of prelates with ring 
and staff, the Holy See was rightly inflexible, although for a time 
a false report as to the Pope's willingness to concede this 

the Catholic Church in England 53 

was believed, even by St. Anselm. Finally the matter of homage 
was decided in favour of the King by Pope Paschal, and on August 1, 
A.D. 1107, in a large assembly held in London, Henry in his turn 
gave way upon the matter of investiture, and it was decreed that 
henceforth the ring and staff, symbols of spiritual jurisdiction, 
should be bestowed only by spiritual authority, but that for the 
bestowal of temporalities ecclesiastics should do homage to their 
sovereign as temporal lord. Two years later St. Anselm's troubles 
were ended. He died at Canterbury, April 21, 1109. For five 
years after this Henry I. kept the See of Canterbury vacant, and 
it was not till May 17, A.D. 1114, that a successor was appointed 
in the person of Ealph d'Escures. He concerned himself greatly 
with maintaining the dignity of the Archbishopric of Canterbury, and 
he wrote a long letter to Pope Calixtus on the subject, addressing 
him as " his Eight Reverend and only Lord, supreme Pontiff of the 
Universal, Holy, and Apostolic Church of Rome." 

During the troubles of St. Anselm's episcopate it had been difficult 
to pay much attention to the discipline of the Church. After his 
return in A.D. 1100, however, there was vigorous legislation as to the 
suppression of married clergy with a view to stamping out that abuse 
of the ecclesiastical canons. In A.D. 1138 Albericus, Bishop of Ostia, 
and legate of Pope Innocent II., held a Synod at Westminster, and 
the provisions of the meeting are of interest, as manifesting the 
Catholic practices in use. For example, we have evidence of the use 
of the holy oil of Chrism, and of Baptismal oil, of the Sacrament of 
Extreme Unction, of the Sacrament of Penance, of the Holy Mass, of 
Holy Communion. There is legislation for the reservation of the 
Blessed Sacrament and for the reverence with which it was to be 
carried to the sick ; for the erection of private oratories ; for the 
consecration of bishops, the blessing of abbots, and for the reception 
of the Sacrament of Orders ; for the reservation of cases for absolution 
to the Roman Pontiff, &c. 

When this Synod was held the Archbishopric of Canterbury was 
vacant, but the following year, A.D. 1139, for the third time an Abbot 
of Bee was chosen to the See in the person of Theobald. All during 
the reign of Stephen the Church, like the nation, had experienced 
the utmost depth of misery. Towards both the King acted as a 
despot ; and he was only restrained by his wars from indulging in all 

54 A Short History of 

the tastes of a tyrant. It was now that under Archbishop Theobald's 
guidance the Church saved the nation. "England," says Green on 
Stephen's reign, " was rescued from this chaos by the efforts of the 

the Catholic Church in England 55 


WHEN Stephen died in 1154 Archbishop Theobald and others were 
sent to Henry Plantagenet, then in Normandy, to request him to 
take the crown. Henry was the grandson of Henry I., being the son 
of his daughter Matilda and Geoffrey of Anjou. On December 19, 
A.D. 1154, he arrived in England and was at once " unanimously 
elected king, and anointed" by the Archbishop. 

At first the dispositions of Henry II. towards the Church appear to 
have been all that could be desired, and in these peaceful years it was 
given a brief period for reorganisation, which was not unnecessary 
after the turbulent reign of Stephen. Soon, however, there were signs 
of difficulties between Church and State, and under Archbishop 
Theobald's successor these came to a climax in the great quarrel 
in regard to the limits of the royal and ecclesiastical jurisdictions. 
In A.D. 1157 the point was raised in a somewhat curious way. The 
Abbot of Battle claimed to be exempt from the jurisdiction of his 
Ordinary, the Bishop of Chichester, and based his claim upon the 
grant of William the Conqueror at the foundation of the Abbey. 
This exemption had been admitted as valid by previous holders of the 
See of Chichester ; but was now denied by Bishop Hilary. Into the 
details of the case it is unnecessary to enter : the interesting point was 
raised by the bishop in a meeting held at Chichester in A.D. 1157 to 
settle the question. The King, Archbishop Theobald and the other 
bishops, as well as many of the nobles, were present, when the Bishop 
of Chichester stated what he held to be Catholic teaching as to the 
jurisdiction of the Church and its extent. 

In the course of a long speech he pointed out that " Our Lord left 

56 A Short History of 

two powers in the world, the spiritual and the material." The 
spiritual He conferred " on the first pastor, that is, on St. Peter the 
Apostle, and all his disciples and successors." Hence from the 
beginning " the custom was implanted in the Church of God that the 
pastors of the holy church of the said Saint Peter, Prince of 
the Apostles, should rightly^ govern, as being vicars of the holy 
Church of God." Hence also " the Roman Church, endowed by the 
apostleship of the said Prince of the Apostles, throughout the length 
and breadth of the world had obtained so high and great a dignity as 
chief, so that no ecclesiastic can be deposed without his judgment 
and authority." Further that " in this way the Church was 
constituted from the earliest time that " without the permission or 
confirmation of the said Father (the Pope) it is not lawful for any 
" lay person, not even a king, to bestow ecclesiastical dignities, or 
grant ecclesiastical privileges to churches." 

In the event, the bishop was compelled to withdraw his claim. 
Curiously enough, however, one of those who appear to have been 
against him in his contention, and who was present at the meeting at 
Chichester, was the King's chancellor, Thomas Becket, who sub- 
sequently as Archbishop was compelled to raise much the same 
question, and even to sacrifice his life in the quarrel. Archbishop 
Theobald died in April, A.D. 1161, " hoping and praying " that Thomas 
the Chancellor would succeed him at Canterbury. The See remained 
vacant for nearly a year, and Becket was unwilling to accept the 
office to which Henry II. had designated him, avowedly because he 
foresaw that the King's ecclesiastical policy would inevitably clash 
with his own obvious duty to the Church as Archbishop. The King, 
however, insisted ; the Canterbury monks elected him, and he was 
consecrated by Henry de Blois, Bishop of Winchester, on June 3, 
A.D. 1162, having been ordained priest the previous day. At the 
King's request Thomas was allowed by the Pope to send for his 
pallium, instead of going to Eome in person to fetch it. Although 
the life of the new Archbishop had always been pious and pure, his 
consecration at once worked a great change in him. He became 
forthwith most zealously devout and studious, adopted an austere 
and penitential mode of life, and threw himself into the work of his 
ecclesiastical office with that ardour which had characterised all his 
service of the King. 

the Catholic C/iurck in England 57 

His fears, that his duty to conscience would interfere with his 
friendship to Henry, became quickly realised. Within a year from 
his appointment he had felt it incumbent upon him to oppose a 
proposition made by Henry on a mere matter of State administration, 
but on the ground that it was inconsistent with the plain principles of 
justice. This was the beginning ; the royal irritation was increased 
by St. Thomas' persistent efforts to recover all alienated property of 
his See, even that which was in the possession of the Crown. 

The main contest, however, was upon a very simple issue. William 
the Conqueror's ecclesiastical courts had been set up for the distinct 
purpose of withdrawing clerics from the ordinary or civil courts. 
Henry saw in this a limitation of the royal power, and in the course of 
A.D. 1163 he made several attempts through his justiciars to assert 
his royal jurisdiction over clerks accused of crime. In each of these 
attempts he was defeated by the legal objections interposed by St. 
Thomas. The position of the Archbishop was clear; consistently 
with his duty he could not allow the clergy to be deprived of a 
privilege which had been conceded for a century. He could not 
surrender the right, for to do so would place the Church again under 
the domination of the secular power, from which Popes and bishops 
had persistently striven to emancipate it. 

Henry made the first move in the struggle. On October 1, A.D. 
1163, he summoned the bishops into his presence. He bade them 
sign their approval of "his grandfather's customs," and in particular 
of two articles, which dealt with the respective functions of Church 
and State, in the case of clerks accused of crime. The bishops 
agreed to do what Henry demanded of them, with the covering clause 
" saving our order" ; but the Archbishop absolutely refused to agree 
to the two clauses, to which the King particularly desired his assent. 

Reprisals followed ; nor were matters improved by a personal 
interview with the King at Northampton. In December, however, it 
was intimated to Becket, falsely as it afterwards appeared, that the 
Pope wished him to give way to Henry, who on his part would really 
be content with the appearance of victory. Upon this the Archbishop 
privately agreed to abide by " the customs of the realm " loyally and 
in good faith. When, however, he was required to repeat this 
publicly, at a Council summoned for the purpose at Clarendon, on 
January 13, A.D. 1164, he had found out that he had been deceived ; 

58 A Short History of 

the Pope had expressed no such desire. He consequently not only 
refused to sign the sixteen propositions, known as the Constitutions 
of Clarendon, declaring them all to be contrary to the law of the 
Church ; but, in his penitence at having given way even so far as he 
had done, though it had been in error, he abstained from saying 
Mass until he had obtained absolution from the Pope. Some unsuc- 
cessful negotiations followed, and St. Thomas made two attempts to 
leave the country. 

In October the same year, at a Council held at Northampton, on 
some trumped-up charges, St. Thomas was declared guilty of high 
treason. The bishops, though they would not support him in his 
hour of need, refused to take part in this sentence against him. That 
night Thomas fled from Northampton, escaped over the sea to France, 
and went at once to throw himself at the feet of Pope Alexander III., 
who was then at Sens. The Pontiff naturally upheld Becket in his 
refusal to sign away the liberties of the Church ; but his decision did 
not, of course, end the quarrel. Six years of fruitless negotiations 
followed. St. Thomas spent these in exile, and more than once 
during that time, it almost seemed as if, to avoid the schism into 
which Henry appeared to be dragging the Church in England, Pope 
Alexander would give way, and compromise the cause for which the 
Archbishop was contending. 

During this time St. Thomas, in writing to one of the English 
bishops, states quite clearly what the Catholic teaching then was about 
obedience to the Roman See. "Who doubts," he writes, " that the 
Roman Church is the head of all the Churches and the source of 
Christian doctrine ? Who is ignorant that to Peter were given the 
keys of the kingdom of heaven ? In the faith and teaching of Peter 
doth not the structure of the whole Church rise until we all attain in 
Christ unto the perfect man, unto the unity of faith and the know- 
ledge of the Son of God ? . . . Whosoever he be who waters or who 
plants, God giveth to no one increase save to him who shall plant in 
the faith of Peter and acquiesce in his teaching." 

In A.D. 1170, mainly by the influence of Louis VII, of France, a 
reconciliation between the King and the Archbishop was effected. 
The Pope urged St. Thomas to return as quickly as possible to his 
diocese, which had been so long without a pastor. This he did at 
once, and he was received by the people with every manifestation of 

the Catholic Chiirch tn England 59 

joy. His entry into his cathedral city of Canterbury was like a 
triumphal procession. The King's good dispositions were, however, 
of brief duration. His mind was poisoned against the Archbishop, 
and a hasty expression he allowed to drop from his lips sealed 
St. Thomas's fate. In less than a month from the Archbishop's 
landing in England, on December 29, A.D. 1170, he had received 
the martyr's crown at the altar of St. Benedict, in his own 

So wonderful were the miracles which immediately attested the 
sanctity of the martyred Archbishop, that even before the election of 
his successor, he had been canonised. At once he became the 
patron of the English Church, which for the next three centuries 
looked upon him as her pride and glory, and as the champion of her 
liberties. The whole Christian world enriched his tomb at Canter- 
bury with their offerings, till it became, even for its very magnificence, 
one of the great sights of the Western world. Before the martyr's 
shrine King Henry did public penance, and in A.D. 1172 was absolved 
by the Pope for his part in the tragedy. The Saint, even by his 
death, had won the battle. The Constitutions of Clarendon became 
a dead letter, and as long as England remained Catholic, ecclesiastics 
preserved the liberties for which St. Thomas had fought the good 
fight even unto death. 

The remainder of the reign of Henry II. and that of King Richard I. 
call for little remark, so far as the story of the Church in England is 
concerned. Archbishop Richard, who succeeded St. Thomas, was 
apparently a wise and prudent ruler. Very shortly after his accession 
in A.D. 1175 he celebrated a Provincial Synod at Westminster, in which 
stringent provisions were enacted to secure the better observance of 
the laws of clerical celibacy. Clerics in Minor Orders who had 
taken to themselves wives were to be prohibited from ever holding 
any benefice ; subdeacons, deacons and priests were to be ordered to 
separate from the women they called their wives under grave 
penalties, since by the Canons of the Church they were incapable of 
marriage. The following year, A.D. 1176, at the request of King 
Henry II., the Pope sent Cardinal Hugo as his legate into England to 
settle various matters of business. As papal legate the Cardinal 
summoned a Synod of both Provinces to meet him at Westminster. 
At this meeting he presided in the Pope's name, and endeavoured, 

60 A Short History of 

but with little success, to settle the long-standing quarrel, between 
the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, as to precedence. 

In the reign of King Richard, the Third Crusade, in which he joined, 
had its effect upon the Church of this country. To obtain the 
necessary funds for the expedition, and subsequently for the King's 
ransom, the taxation of ecclesiastics was increased to such an extent 
that the sacred plate had to be pledged or sold. From A.D. 1193 until 
A.D. 1205 the Church of Canterbury was ruled by Hubert Walter, 
who had previously been Bishop of Salisbury. Besides being a great 
ecclesiastic, Archbishop Walter was one of the most eminent of 
the many great Churchmen who all during this period had the 
administration of English State affairs in their hands. Though their 
ecclesiastical duties must undoubtedly have somewhat suffered by 
their secular occupations, they not only secured some measure of 
justice and safety to the people in what would otherwise have 
been lawless times, but they contributed greatly as statesmen to 
the making of England. 

Archbishop Hubert Walter was a man of more than ordinary 
energy. In A.D. 1195 he was in the north of England making a 
visitation of the monasteries and of the Northern Province generally 
as " legate of the Pope." He legislated in a Synod held at York on 
matters concerning clerical life, being careful to declare that "in 
everything he desired to safeguard the authority and dignity of the 
most Holy Roman See." The provisions of this Synod are of great 
interest as manifesting the extreme care and reverence which the 
English Church had for the Blessed Sacrament. The law of the 
Church as to the mixed chalice ; the care taken to preserve the Canon 
of the " Sacrifice of the Mass" from even verbal changes, however 
slight ; provisions as to the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, 
which out of reverence was to be changed each week ; the honour 
with which it was to be carried to the sick for their Viaticum, &c., are 
all summed up by Archbishop Hubert in the words : " Let the Blessed 
Sacrament be consecrated with humility, received with fear, and 
dispensed (to the faithful) with all reverence." A similar Synod was 
held in London in A.D. 1200 by the same Archbishop, in which the 
legislation as to the Eucharist and the other Sacraments, as well as 
to the Divine Office to be said by priests, is equally clear and edifying. 
It is useful to see by this that, even in the general chaos of King 

the Catholic Church in England 61 

John's reign, the Church authorities did not relax their efforts to 
maintain a proper standard of discipline. 

The name of one great bishop and saint should be mentioned as 
having lived at this time that of St. Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln. The 
influence of his upright character and devout life was felt by the 
nation at a time when such an example was much needed. He was 
fearless in doing his duty. When Henry II. desired him to bestow a 
prebend at Lincoln on one whom the bishop considered unworthy, he 
flatly refused the royal request. He successfully withstood King 
Richard, in what he considered an unjust taxation proposed to be 
levied on the people. When he died, on November 24, A.D. 1200, 
he was borne in what was really a procession of triumph to his tomb 
in Lincoln Cathedral, King John himself being one of the bearers of 
the bier. 

The reign of John brought great trouble to the Church in England. 
Hubert Walter, the Archbishop of Canterbury, died in A.D. 1205 and 
grave difficulties arose about the choice of a successor. The monks 
first elected their sub-prior, and then a nominee of the King. Pope 
Innocent III. rejected both candidates and bade the monks choose 
Stephen Langton, an Englishman and at that time a Cardinal in 
Rome, one of the best, most learned and upright ecclesiastics of 
the day. This they did at once and in Rome, without referring to the 
King for leave to elect as was customary, and thereupon the Pope 
immediately consecrated him on June 17, A.D. 1207. King John 
was furious and declared that he would never receive Langton as 
Archbishop, or allow him to set foot in England. In this disposition 
he remained for several years. The country meanwhile experienced 
all the horrors of an Interdict. John himself was excommunicated by 
the Pope ; was declared deposed from his rule over the kingdom 
and the King of France was invited to carry out the sentence. At 
the last moment, however, John submitted himself fully and entirely 
to the Pope. In July, A.D. 1213, in the presence of a papal legate, he 
surrendered his kingdom into the Pope's hands and received his 
crown again from the Pope's representative as a vassal from his 
suzerain lord. He further bound himself and his successors by oath 
to hold England as a fief of the Roman See and to pay a yearly 
tribute to the papacy for his kingdom. 
It was not till this had been done that Cardinal Langton at last 

62 A Short History of 

came over to England and took possession of his See, six years after 
his election. He at once became the leader of the nobles and people 
in their fight for freedom against the tyranny and lawlessness of John, 
who broke every promise and violated every oath. At length, guided 
by Langton, the Barons forced him, in A.D. 1215, to grant the Great 
Charter. This, however, was net to be the end of the struggle. John 
appealed to the Pope against his subjects; and the Pope, on the ground 
that as suzerain he ought to have been consulted before his vassal 
could be bound by any oath respecting the government of the kingdom, 
declared Magna CJiarta null and void. The country now experienced 
all the horrors of civil war. The Barons invited Louis of France to 
come over to England and take the crown from one whose word they 
could not trust, and John asked and obtained from the Pope a legate 
to protect him. Success, however, favoured the party of the Barons ; 
but fortunately for the kingdom John died on October 12, 1216. 

Henry III., the son of King John, was only nine years of age at the 
time of his father's death. He owed his succession, as he frequently 
in subsequent years acknowledged, to the Pope and the papal legate 
Gualo. During the long reign of this sovereign many issues of great 
importance were raised in regard to the Church in this country. 
Frequent nuncios and legates visited England on papal and royal 
business. As often as not they were asked for by Henry himself, 
who was in frequent disagreement with the Archbishops and bishops 
of England, not only upon ecclesiastical matters, but in regard to the 
constant royal repudiations of promises and obligations. The Church 
in England was the champion of English liberties and assisted the 
nobles and people in their endeavour to prevent Henry from re- 
pudiating the charters he had granted and had sworn to respect, by 
ecclesiastical censures and solemn excommunications. 

The action of the papal legates and the Popes themselves during 
this period has been frequently condemned by historians. It was 
a time of great difficulty and trouble for the papacy. On the one 
hand the Popes were straining every nerve to break the power of the 
Mahometans by means of the various Crusades they initiated, and 
for which Europe is so greatly indebted to them, and on the other 
they were involved in a long and exhausting struggle with the 
Emperor. The Koman Pontiffs were in grievous need of money, and 
of the means to reward the services of their faithful adherents. 

the Catholic Church in England 63 

Under these circumstances they had recourse not merely to a taxation 
of ecclesiastical revenues throughout the Christian world, but to the 
appointment of Roman and Italian ecclesiastics to benefices in 
England and elsewhere. In England these were known as papal 
subsidies and papal provisions. However much necessity may excuse 
these demands, they were condemned as detrimental to the best 
interests of religion by the ecclesiastics of France as well as by those of 
England, whose complete loyalty to the Papacy cannot be questioned. 

Chief among the great English Churchmen of this period there may 
be mentioned the name of St. Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury, a 
learned and saintly prelate. His episcopate was one long period of 
strife and contention, and, like St. Thomas Becket, he fled from 
England and died in exile. Another bishop, who occupied a great 
position for his learning, piety, and fearless determination to do his 
duty at all costs, was Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln. This 
time, too, saw the rise of the great Mendicant Orders. It is difficult 
to say which is more remarkable, the rapidity of the development of 
the Franciscan and Dominican friars, or the great position both in 
the Church and the world to which they so quickly attained in the 
first half century after the deaths of their sainted founders. 

It was during the time of the Plantagenets, and strangely enough 
during the reign of King John, that our English Universities began 
to be renowned as schools of learning, and students commenced to 
come to them from other countries. This was entirely due to the 
action of the Church, and mainly to the personal work of such 
Churchmen as St. Edmund of Canterbury and Bishop Grosseteste of 
Lincoln ; whilst their efforts were seconded by the Franciscan and 
Dominican teachers, who soon gained a European reputation. 

Bishop Grosseteste's opinion upon the position of the Church in 
regard to the Supremacy of the Roman Pontiff may be here recorded, 
since his attitude in regard to certain abuses has been so frequently 
misunderstood and misrepresented. In the very same letter written 
to the Pope's official not, be it remembered, to the Pope himself in 
which in strong language he objects to a papal nominee for a Lincoln 
prebend, he declares that to " the most Holy Apostolic See all power 
has been entrusted for edification, not destruction, by the Holy of 
Holies, our Lord Jesus Christ." Moreover, in another letter he puts 
the matter even more clearly, declaring that " to the Holy Roman 

64 A Short History of 

Church is due from every son of the Church the most devoted 
obedience, the most reverential veneration, the most fervent love, 
the most submissive fear." ..." When the sun himself appears and 
shows his presence upon the earth, the lesser luminaries give place 
to the rays of the sun, being extinguished by the solar light : so does 
our Lord the Pope manifest his presence ; for in comparison to him 
all other prelates are like the moon and stars, receiving from him 
whatever power they possess to illuminate and cherish the Church." 

the Catholic Church in England 65 


IT is, of course, possible here to treat of the fourteenth and fifteenth 
centuries only very briefly. Some matters, however, of importance 
and interest in the History of the Church during this period require 
consideration. Before the close of the thirteenth century Edward I. 
had come into serious collision with the English ecclesiastical authori- 
ties about money matters. All during the latter part of Henry III.'s 
reign constant demands were made upon English Church revenues 
both by the Pope and the King. The Pope was often assisted by 
royal authority to obtain the subsidy he desired, and the King in 
turn frequently asked that papal pressure should be put on his ecclesi- 
astical subjects, to induce them to assist him out of the revenues of 
their benefices. It was only another step for the Sovereign to claim 
his tenth or fifteenth from Church property as a right, not requiring 
the Pope's authorisation or dispensation. This is exactly what did 
happen in A.D. 1295, only that Edward I. demanded a third, or at 
least a fourth part, of all Church revenues. He had recently employed 
papal authority to extract from English ecclesiastics certain payments 
for the Holy War, and now, under the guidance of Archbishop 
Winchelsea, the clergy invoked the same authority to prevent what 
they regarded as wholesale spoliation. At their request Pope 
Boniface VIII. published a Bull forbidding the clergy of any Christian 
country to grant away the revenues of their churches without per- 
mission of the Holy See. Upon this prohibition the English clergy 
took their stand ; and in January, A.D. 1297, the Archbishop of Can- 
terbury publicly declared their inability to do what Edward desired. 
" Under Almighty God," he said, " wehave two lords theone spiritual, 

66 A Short History of 

the other temporal. Obedience is due to both, but more to the 
spiritual." He then offered to send messengers to consult the Pope 
and if possible to obtain the required dispensation. This King 
Edward refused and proclaimed the entire body of clergy outlawed. 
Churchmen were thus entirely and suddenly placed at the King's 
mercy. As outlaws they could not appeal for justice to any court 
nor claim protection from the law for any injury. The northern 
clergy at once gave way ; but as in the Province of Canterbury there 
was hesitation, the King's officials promptly took possession of all 
ecclesiastical property, and Edward intimated that should the clergy 
not now agree to give what he asked, he would keep as much as he 
pleased. They at once capitulated, Archbishop Winchelsea alone 
remaining inflexible. He retired with one chaplain to a small par- 
sonage, and subsequently departed from England. When Edward I. 
died he was still living in exile abroad. 

Under Edward III. the secular policy of the Crown was obviously 
hostile to that of the Holy See in some respects. This, however, in 
no way interfered with the full loyalty of both Sovereign and people 
to the Pope in all religious matters. The differences, where they 
existed, had regard merely to the authority claimed by the Popes 
over the ecclesiastical property of the country, and on this ground 
they not unfrequently asserted a right to bestow benefices at their 
will and pleasure. This matter has obviously nothing to do with the 
spiritual jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiffs. In these disputes this 
was not only never called in question, but was constantly being 
reaffirmed as part of the faith, or at least of the practice, of Christian 
nations. In A.D. 1351 and A.D. 1353 the celebrated statutes of 
Provisors and Prcemunire were carried by the English Parliament 
in spite of the opposition of the bishops. The former statute forbade 
the introduction into thp country of such Papal Bulls as dealt with 
" Provisions," or the bestowal of any English benefice or cure upon a 
papal nominee. In the first instance this law was mainly directed 
against the holding of English benefices by foreigners. The second, 
or " Statute of Prsemunire," threatened with imprisonment, forfeiture 
of goods and other penalties, any one who should accept from the 
Holy See any "provision" to a benefice in England. This had, of 
course, nothing whatsoever to do with the normal authority of the 
Holy See in confirming to bishoprics, &c, 

the Catholic Ch^lrch in England 67 

This statute of Praernunire, however, in reality amounted only to a 
national protest against alleged trespasses upon the Koyal authority 
in civil matters. By its terms it is made penal for any suit to be 
"drawn out of the kingdom, to answer of things whereof the cogni- 
sance pertains to the King's Court." From the first its provisions 
were never construed against Papal appointment to bishoprics. Every 
vacancy of any English See continued to be filled after the passing 
of the Act as before in the normal way, by papal provision. In most 
cases the King connived at the appointment and wrote letters suppli- 
catory to the Pope asking him to appoint " out of the plenitude of his 
power." All translations of bishops were also made on the same 
lines. Some of these papal provisions, however, were carried out in 
spite of the King, as in the case of Eochester in 1389, of Carlisle in 
1396, and others about the same time. In 1406 the Pope provided 
Bishop Tottington to Norwich in spite of the royal disapproval, the 
King yielding in the end and giving the temporalities. In fact, within 
six months of the passing of the Act two of the principal Sees in 
England had been filled up by papal " provision." Later on, 
Edward III. went to Bruges and met the papal commissioners and 
made what appears to have been a treaty with them. Here, although 
a modification in practice was promised, the right of the Pope to 
provide in given cases was conceded. Even in regard to ordinary 
benefices there is evidence to show that the right of papal provision, 
though in practice much restricted, continued in fact to be acknow- 
ledged, or at least conceded. 

Fifty years' experience showed that the statute of Provisors had 
operated to the great detriment of learning, and in A.D. 1399 both Uni- 
versities petitioned Convocation to find some remedy. They pointed 
out that whilst the Popes were allowed to confer benefices by pro- 
vision, the choice had always fallen upon men of talents and industry, 
who had obtained degrees in the Universities. The effect of this pre- 
ference had been to multiply the number of students and quicken the 
national desire to obtain University degrees. The " Statute of Pro- 
visors " had put an end to this, and the schools at the time of the 
petition were almost abandoned. In A.D. 1416 the matter attracted 
the attention of Parliament, and the Commons petitioned the King 
for the abolition of the statute and for leave to be granted for the 
Pope to revive the practice of " providing" to English benefices. 

68 A Short History of 

That these laws against "provisions" were not, and were not in- 
tended to be, detrimental to the spiritual prerogatives of the Pope is 
absolutely certain. The great theological teacher at Oxford during 
the fourteenth century, for instance, was the celebrated Duns Scotus, 
and his works were the standard authorities at our Universities until 
the religious changes of the sixteenth century. His opinion on the 
position of the Pope in the Church may be taken, therefore, as repre- 
senting English teaching on the matter. In one of his tracts, whilst 
discussing a question relating to Baptism, he has occasion to refer to 
the teaching of Innocent III., and he there says : "It is of faith 
that the ever Holy Roman Church, which is the pillar and ground of 
all truth and against which the gates of hell cannot prevail, admits 
no error and teaches the truth. . . . Hence they are excommunicated 
as heretics who teach or hold anything different from what She 
teaches and practises." 

If this was the doctrine of the schools, the Supremacy of the Pope 
was no less clearly maintained by English constitutional law. Justice 
Bracton (a priest), who lived in the middle of the thirteenth century, 
was chiefly renowned for his great work upon The Laws and Con- 
stitutions of England, which was the standard authority on legal 
matters for centuries. He did not, of course, deal with ecclesiastical 
law directly, and so had little occasion to speak specifically of the 
Pope's authority ; but incidentally he says : " Concerning the juris- 
diction of superior and inferior courts, it is to be noted that in the 
first place, as the Lord Pope has ordinary jurisdiction over all in 
spirituals, so the King has in this realm in temporals." Further : 
" To the Pope and the priesthood belong spiritual things ; to the King 
and the kingdom temporal things, as it is written, 'the heaven of 
heavens is the Lord's, but the earth He has given to the children of 
men.' Hence the Pope has nothing to do with the dispensation of 
temporal affairs, any more than kings and princes have with spiritual, 
lest either should put his sickle into the other's harvest. And as the 
Pope can ordain in the spiritual sphere concerning orders and digni- 
ties, so also can the King in temporals concerning grants of inheri- 
tance and assignment of heirs." 

In A.D. 1349, England, in common with other countries, suffered 
from the most terrible scourge of pestilence which has probably ever 
fallen on the world. It has become known in these days as " The 

the Catholic Church in England 69 

Black Death," and during the few months its ravages scourged 
England it carried off fully one-half of the inhabitants. The clergy 
were everywhere devoted to their duty, and they perished at their 
posts in such numbers that it became impossible to fill the vacancies 
caused by the sickness. Many churches long remained unserved ; 
some were never again used. In the religious houses the mortality 
was not less. In some, religious life was wholly destroyed, and in 
most the depletion of numbers was so great that they never afterwards 
recovered. To fill up vacancies in parish churches, young and inex- 
perienced, and of course unlearned clerics were quickly ordained, and 
ecclesiastical discipline and religious teaching must have suffered 
considerably. One curious result, which apparently can be traced 
to the social changes caused by this great pestilence was a general 
dearth of candidates for the sacred ministry among the well-to-do class. 
Before this time the cleric, who was ordained upon his own patrimony, 
as we should say to-day, or whose family found him a " title " that is, 
assured him the means of living respectably until he could obtain a 
competent benefice very frequently comes up for ordination. During 
the second half of the fourteenth century and the whole of the 
fifteenth this class of candidate is much more rare, and the monas- 
teries now ifurnish the greater number of candidates for Ordination, 
even to the ranks of the secular priesthood, and give them the 
necessary "title." These clerics had probably been educated in the 
monastic schools and were secured a "title" and otherwise assisted 
to enter the ranks of the parochial clergy by the religious Orders. 

Before the close of the fourteenth century the orthodoxy of 
the Church in England was troubled by the teachings of an 
Oxford professor named Wyclif. Whatever may have been the 
cause, the fact seems certain that Wyclif, a very able and learned 
ecclesiastic, was embittered in early life against the Pope and the 
Kornan Curia. This soon developed into a spirit of bitter discontent 
against the management of ecclesiastical affairs generally, and against 
the Pope, the religious, and the friars in particular. In much of 
this he had at first the support of John of Gaunt, the son of 
Edward III. Soon the critical, carping spirit hostile to all authority 
which Wyclif had fostered led him to attack the authoritative 
teaching of the Church on various points of doctrine. In regard 
to the Blessed Sacrament, for instance, he adopted the old errors 

70 A Short History of 

of Berengar and rejected the doctrine of Transubstantiation. He 
objected, too, to the invocation and veneration of the Saints ; he 
rejected the sacraments of Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, 
and even declared that Baptism was unnecessary in the case of 
children born of Christian parents. The Pope he spoke of as 
Antichrist ; and as he claimed that the Bible, interpreted as the 
individual reader desired, was to be the sole authority in matters 
of religion, he taught that to say that the Church of Borne was God's 
appointed witness to the truth on earth was false and foolish. The 
only head of the Church he would admit was the King, and his 
authority was derived from the people. 

For these and other such teachings Wyclif was summoned to 
answer before Convocation on three different occasions ; but under 
powerful secular influence he appears to have escaped formal con- 
demnation until A.D. 1380. At the meeting of Convocation in that 
year twenty-four propositions selected from his works were con- 
demned, as heretical and dangerous, by the authority of the English 
Church. Probably, however, on account of his failing health Wyclif 
himself was left unmolested. He retired to his vicarage at Lutter- 
worth, where he was attacked by paralysis whilst hearing Mass 
in A.D. 1884 and shortly after died. 

The poison of his erroneous teaching was not, however, destroyed 
by Wyclif's death. For the next twenty years or so his followers, 
who began to be known as Lollards, increased chiefly among the 
lower classes. This was probably caused as much by the social 
principles they adopted in accordance with their master's teaching as 
by any real religious conviction or through hostility to the Church. 
A series of risings, and many acts of violence, including the murder 
of Archbishop Simon Sudbury, at last alarmed the secular authorities, 
and the Lollards were repressed with a strong hand by Henry IV. 
and Henry V. From about the end of the first quarter of the 
fifteenth century the movement was practically stamped out, and 
although the doctrines of Wyclif are much the same as those adopted 
by the Reformers of the sixteenth century, there is in reality little or 
no connection between them. An examination of the works of 
the early English Protestant divines will show how very little 
they based their teaching upon that of Wyclif, sheltered them- 
selves under his authority, or even mentioned his name. As a 

the Catholic Church in England 71 

religious movement Lollardry had expired in England long before the 
reign of Henry VIII. 

It is perhaps necessary to refer briefly to Wyclif's supposed 
connection with the vernacular Scriptures. He is usually credited, 
it must be confessed on very slight evidence, with having been 
the first to translate the Bible into English. Whether he had 
anything to do with some translation of a part, or of the whole, 
of the Bible is a matter of small importance; but the assertion 
that usually accompanies the statement that the first English Bible 
was his work, namely, that Catholics were altogether prohibited 
by the English ecclesiastical authorities from reading the vernacular 
Scriptures in pre-Beforination days, is now practically admitted 
to have been made under a misconception. Further, as a mere 
matter of fact, the vernacular version that is known now as the 
Wycliffite Scriptures, has certainly come down to us from Catholic 
sources, and can be shown to have been in the hands of men of 
undoubted orthodoxy. No one who is really acquainted with the 
facts can of course for a moment suppose that our Catholic ancestors 
were not fully accustomed to the use of the Bible. The miracle plays 
of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries brought the whole sequence 
of Scripture History constantly before the popular mind, whilst 
the stained-glass windows and painted walls of the churches were 
truly " the books of the poor," ever impressing upon them the main 
lessons of their religion and keeping before their eyes the chief scenes 
from the Old and New Testaments. 

The long civil wars of the fifteenth century must no doubt have 
had their effect upon ecclesiastical discipline and life. It is, however, 
at least remarkable that all during this period there was manifested 
a real love of religion in the general desire of the people to rebuild, to 
complete, and to beautify their parochial and other churches. The 
proof of this can be sought in almost any part of the country, 
and what is equally remarkable is that all this labour and money 
spent upon God's house during the fifteenth and in the first quarter 
of the sixteenth century was the labour and the money of the people 
themselves. It is hardly possible to ask for a better proof that 
the Church of their forefathers still claimed the allegiance and 
engaged the affections of Englishmen generally. 

A word must be said about the attitude of the Church in England 

72 A Short History of 

to learning in general and to the movement begun towards the 
close of the fifteenth century, known as the Renaissance of Letters. 
Contrary to what is somewhat generally believed, the Church has 
ever shown herself the patron of sound learning, and in England 
in particular, not only in early times, when the action of Churchmen 
created our Universities, and monasteries furnished most of the 
schools in the country, but in later times, when the lamp of learning 
had been re-enkindled in Italy by the Greek exiles, ecclesiastics, and 
monks from Christ Church, Canterbury, were actually the first to 
journey over the seas and bring back the sacred flame to their 
own country. 

In regard to the beliefs of our Catholic forefathers during the 
fifteenth century, there is abundant proof that in nothing had 
they departed from the creed of their ancestors. In the Council 
of Constance, A.D. 1417, at which more than a hundred English bishops, 
abbots, and theologians, &c., were present, a strong protestation was 
made on behalf of the nation against the proposal advanced by 
France, that England should not be allowed an equal representation 
with other countries in the Councils of the Church, but that it should 
be considered as part of Germany. This protest, after stating the 
reasons why England had as much right to a voice in the affairs 
of the Universal Church as other Christian nations, says: " Moreover, 
the kingdom of England, thanks be to God, has never swerved from 
its obedience to the Roman Church; it has never tried to rend 
the seamless coat of our Lord : it has never endeavoured to shake 
off its loyalty to the Roman Pontiffs." 

Ten years later again, in A.D. 1426, Pope Martin V., in a letter 
to Archbishop Chicheley, states clearly not only that the Roman 
Pontiffs had supreme authority as a fact, but that they derived 
all their authority from the divine institution of Our Lord. He is 
bound to protect, he says, " the rights and privileges of the Roman 
Church and the Apostolic See, which Christ Himself gave by His 
divine word, and not men." This contention is fully admitted by 
the Archbishop in his reply on behalf of the English Church, for 
the idea that the papacy was of ecclesiastical and not of divine 
institution, which apparently in later times perplexed Sir Thomas 
More, does not appear to have been the traditional view of the 
English Church at this time, still less is there any suggestion that 

the Catholic Church in England 73 

England gave her obedience to the Pope on grounds of national 
policy or expediency, and not on a dogmatic basis. The principle 
is put clearly by the University of Oxford in their letter, written 
at the same time as that of Archbishop Chicheley. "We recognise 
in your beloved person the true Head," the writers say. "We 
profess without doubt and from our hearts (that you are) the one 
supreme Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth and the true successor 
of St. Peter." 

74 A Short History of 


WHEN Henry VIII. carne to the throne in A.D. 1509 the English 
Church founded by St. Augustine had already existed more than nine 
hundred years. It had grown with the nation, or more truly, the 
nation had grown with it. The unity of the Church, under one 
head, the Pope, the same in Faith and government existing in the 
various kingdoms of Saxon England, had undoubtedly contributed the 
object-lesson which finally brought about the welding of the various 
tribes into the one great kingdom of England. In doctrine, discipline, 
and government the Church at the beginning of the sixteenth century 
was the same as that established in A.D. 597 by Pope St. Gregory 
the Great in the kingdom of Kent. During all those centuries the 
great cathedrals, monasteries, colleges and other ecclesiastical buildings 
which covered the land had been raised to the honour of God by the 
unswerving faith of the members of the one Church founded on Peter's 
Bock. The boast made, as we have seen, a century before at the 
Council of Constance, that there was no Church more loyal to Home 
and the Pope, and no Church which had kept the purity of the Faith 
more zealously, or been less tainted with heresy than the English 
Church, was equally true when Henry VII. died and for many years 
after. That this was the case almost to the very hour of the final 
breaking away from Rome we have clear and distinct testimony. In 
1521 Henry VIII. sent John Clerk, Bishop of Bath and Wells, to 
Borne to present his work on the Seven Sacraments against Luther. 
Clerk was received in full Consistory on Wednesday, October 2nd, and 
made his oration before the Pope, the Cardinals, and all the Ambassadors 

the Catholic Church in England 75 

of Europe. The theme of his speech was the loyalty of the English 
Church. " Of other nationalities," he says, " let others speak. But 
assuredly rny Britain my England, as in later times she has been 
called has never yielded to Spain, never to France, never to Germany, 
never to Italy, never to any nearer nation, no, not even to Rome 
itself, in the service of God and in the Christian faith, and in the 
obedience due to the most Holy Roman Church ; even as there is no 
nation which more opposes, more condemns, more loathes this monster 
(i.e., Protestantism) and the heresies which spring from it." As Clerk 
was the King's Ambassador, this was not only a public but an official 

That the nation was thoroughly Catholic at heart cannot be 
questioned ; still it may be admitted also that the Church in life and 
discipline was not all that could be desired. The circumstances 
which had contributed to this, need not here be discussed ; it is 
sufficient to know that many of the most learned and the best English 
churchmen had recognised the need in this country as elsewhere at 
the time of greater discipline and greater earnestness in God's work. 
There were, however, it would seem, no very great abuses which called 
aloud for redress; although here and there it appeared as if "the 
salt " was beginning " to lose its savour." Still it may be safely said 
that the idea of any change of religion never even entered into the 
wildest calculations, even of those who seem to have been most 
dissatisfied with the actual condition of things on the eve of the 
Reformation. They never could have imagined that the best way 
to beautify the house of God would be to dig up the foundations, 
or the proper way to begin to purify the Church would be to destroy its 
unity and abolish the visible Headship by the creation of a national 

Momentous issues often spring from small causes ; and it was, in the 
beginning at least, a mere love affair of Henry VIII. which initiated the 
policy that finally dragged England into schism and heresy. In A.D. 
1529 Cardinal Wolsey was disgraced and stripped of all his offices for 
having failed in his efforts to please the King and procure his divorce 
from Queen Catherine. The Pope, there can be little doubt, would 
have done what Henry desired had it been possible for him to do so 
according to his conscience and the law of God. The matter rested 
here for a while, and it almost seemed as if Henry would in the end 

7 6 A Short History of 

accept the inevitable, when it was suggested to him that by imitating 
the example of the German princes he might make himself Head 
of the English Church, and that then he would be in a position to 
settle his own matter in his own way. 

To obtain the support of Parliament, Henry ingeniously contrived 
to suggest that the nation had incurred the penalties of prcemunirc 
by admitting the legatine powers of Cardinal Wolsey, although, of 
course, they had been exercised with the royal knowledge and by the 
royal authority. The laity were pardoned for this technical offence ; 
but the clergy were excluded, with the intention of using the situation 
in which they were placed to secure their recognition of the King as 
" Supreme Head of the Church of England." The bishops thought 
that they knew Henry, and offered to purchase their pardon by a 
large sum of money. The King, however, knew his own object, and 
refused, unless they inserted into their submission certain clauses, 
amongst others one acknowledging his Headship of the Church, and 
another declaring that the King's protection had enabled English 
Churchmen to minister in peace " ( in the cure of souls committed to 
His Majesty." Convocation debated these demands during two-and- 
thirty sessions, and there is sufficient evidence of consideration in 
the changes introduced into the proposed clauses. The second of the 
above demands was changed by the clergy from " the cure of souls 
committed to His Majesty" to "the cure of souls in the nation 
committed to His Majesty." This alteration throws considerable 
light upon the sense in which they ultimately agreed to the first- 
named clause, which, as they passed it, ran, "of the English Church 
and clergy whose Protector and Supreme Head he alone is." 

King Henry was evidently not best pleased, but for the time at 
least he had to be content with a statement which he must have 
known, as Dean Hook says, " was not at the time of the Convocation 
regarded as inconsistent with the legitimate claims of the papacy." 
In fact, when Bishop Tunstall, on behalf of the Convocation of the 
Northern Province, asked for information as to the exact meaning of 
the phrase " Supreme Head," the King replied, calling the Pope the 
"Head of the Church" and the "Prince of Bishops." He argued 
that as to call the Pope " most holy " implied no disrespect to 
St. Peter ; and as to call a person Archbishop implied no derogation 
to the authority of the Pope, who was par excellence " the Arch- 

the Catholic Church in England 77 

bishop," because the addition of the name of the place safeguarded 
the meaning, so the proposed title of " Supreme Headship, 1 ' if given 
to the King, would not interfere with any spiritual authority, because 
it only referred to the King in his position as feudal lord over the 
clergy in things temporal. It can hardly be made more certain that, 
as Froude says, " the title was not intended to imply what it implied, 
when, four years later, it was conferred by Act of Parliament, 
and when England virtually was severed by it from the Roman 
communion." Moreover, after this declaration bishops continued to 
receive their Bulls from Rome, and the King still continued to plead 
the cause of his divorce before the Roman Courts. He "had not 
formally broken off his relations with the Pope ; and it is quite 
certain that neither Warham, Fisher, nor More would have accepted 
the words if they had necessarily implied a renunciation of papal 

In the year A.D. 1532 another step on the road from Rome was 
taken. An Act was passed called the " Submission of the Clergy," 
by which they promised for the future not to legislate in Convocation 
without the royal assent. In the same year Henry devised a means 
to coerce the Pope through Parliament. Hitherto the "Firstfruits " 
of bishoprics, &c., known as Annates, and consisting of the amount 
of the first year's revenue, had been made payable to the Pope for 
the support of the Curia. The King now induced the Parliament to 
declare that these payments should be made to the King, whenever 
he might elect to give his assent to the Act. This was purely a 
parliamentary measure, and the Church had no part in it. As the 
sum received by the Pope from this source was very considerable 
the Act indeed stated that during the past forty-five years the 
average payment under this head had been ^3,500 a year Henry 
hoped to have in his hands a means whereby he could bring the 
Pope to his terms by threatening to stop supplies. It was in this 
same year, A.D. 1532, that Sir Thomas More resigned the ofiice of 
Chancellor into the King's hands. 

On August 22, A.D. 1532, the aged Archbishop of Canterbury, 
Warham, breathed his last. "We cannot doubt," writes Mr. Gairdner, 
"that the event at once suggested to the King a new method of 
achieving his end." This was by securing the appointment of a 
successor who would help him ; and Thomas Cranmer was in every 

7 8 A Short History of 

way likely to prove himself a useful tool in the royal hands if he 
were promoted to the See of Canterbury. He had been a tutor in 
the Boleyn family, and in defiance of the then ecclesiastical laws 
had secretly married though a priest. Further, his first wife having 
died, he had recently in Germany taken to himself a second lady in the 
person of the niece of Osiander, the German reformer. Cranrner, who 
was abroad at the time of Warhatn's death, was sent for to England, and 
the Bulls of Consecration were applied for in the ordinary way from 
the Pope. These were obtained with all the haste possible, and 
Cranmer was consecrated on March 80, 1533, receiving his pallium at 
the same time. By a solemn act of perjury he took the usual oaths of 
obedience and loyalty to the Pope, although he had privately declared 
beforehand that he would hold these vows as null and void, and 
that he intended to take and hold his See from the King only. 

Another step in the work of separating England from the jurisdiction 
of the Holy See was now taken by the King. Cranmer gave judgment 
on the great divorce question in favour of Henry. Forthwith the 
King made Ann Boleyn his Queen on June 1, A.D. 1533, having been 
already privately married to her five months before ; the Princess 
Elizabeth was born on September 7th following, only four months 
after Cranmer had declared Henry free to marry. To prevent any 
interference with this so-called definitive sentence, Parliament at this 
same time was induced to pass an Act which prohibited appeals to 
the Pope from any sentence of an English court. 

In the session of Parliament held in 1534 the Act for the future 
payments of Annates to the King in the place of the Pope received 
the royal sanction ; in the same session, an Act of Succession making 
Elizabeth heir to the throne, was passed. This last was of greater 
importance than its name would imply, for in the preamble was 
embodied the statement of the Royal Supremacy, which had been 
extorted from the clergy in A.D. 1531, and which, as we have seen, 
was regarded by them at the time as not inconsistent with papal 
jurisdiction. This formula, however, could no longer be regarded as 
susceptible of a Catholic interpretation, since, in the spring of A.D. 1534 
the Convocations of Canterbury and York under royal pressure had 
formally declared that " the Bishop of Rome has not in Scripture 
any greater jurisdiction in the kingdom of England than any foreign 
bishop." In March, A.D. 1534, " the submission of the clergy " was 

the Catholic Church in England 79 

formally embodied in an Act of Parliament, and in November the 
work of schism was completed by the Supreme Head Act, styling 
Henry without any reservation the only " Supreme Head in earth of 
the Church of England," and adding to his ecclesiastical headship 
the amplest powers of ecclesiastical visitation. Finally, so far as 
Parliament was concerned, it set the finishing touch to its work of 
putting all power into the King's hands by the Verbal Treasons Act, 
which passed in December, 1534 ; by this statute it was declared high 
treason even to "imagine " any bodily harm to either King or Queen, 
or " to deprive them of their dignity, title, style," &c. 

The oath, as framed, was taken by the Universities and by many, 
if not most, of the monastic and capitular bodies. The bishops with 
one exception also gave way ; the exception, of course, being Blessed 
John Fisher of Kochester, who, with the illustrious Sir Thomas More, 
refused to burden their consciences by agreeing to the demands of the 
King. They preferred imprisonment and death. The former received 
his martyr's crown on June 22, 1535, the latter on July 6th. They 
were joined in their valiant confession for conscience and religion by 
some Carthusians, Brigittines, and Franciscan Observants. 

The change had been now made. That the nation disliked what 
had been done cannot be doubted. In spite of the Act for Verbal 
Treasons "on no other subject during the entire reign have we such 
overt and repeated expressions of dissatisfaction unto the King and 
his proceedings," writes Mr. Gairdner. The " ecclesiastical headship " 
was " without precedent, and at variance with all tradition," or, as 
the same authority says, "it was a totally new order in the Church." 
There can be little doubt that Henry had been pushed along faster 
and further than he had any notion of going when he embarked upon 
his ecclesiastical policy. Thomas Cranmer and Thomas Crumwell 
had secured a success for him beyond his dreams, and they were at 
hand to see that there was no turning back. It was no emancipation 
of the English Church that was intended or indeed carried into effect 
by Henry's legislation. The famous Statute 25 Henry VIII. cap 20, 
which requires Chapters to elect, and the Archbishop to confirm, the 
royal nominees to bishoprics, under penalties of imprisonment and 
pramunire, is proof that it was no measure of liberty that was 
intended by Henry or his advisers. 

The year A.D. 1536 saw the King legislating for his spiritual flock in 

8o A Short History of 

his new capacity as head of the Church. He first appointed Thomas 
Cmmwell his Vicar- General in Spirituals, and in this capacity 
Crumwell took the first place at all meetings of the bishops and 
presided at Convocation. It was then determined to have a general 
visitation of the religious houses, as a means for preparing the public 
mind for their subsequent destruction. The visitors found out in 
their inspections what they we're expected to find, and their reports 
at least so the King assured the Commons proved that whilst the 
greater religious houses were well conducted, those with an income of 
less than ^200 a year were dens of infamy. Parliament with a little 
careful management agreed to suppress these, and allowed the King 
to take possession of then* property. For the next three years the 
destruction of monasteries, convents and friaries went on rapidly all 
over the country; for Henry, not content with the spoils he had 
obtained from the suppression of the lesser houses, cast envious eyes 
upon the richer prey and quickly set his agents to devise means to 
secure the greater houses also. 

Meanwhile, in A.D. 1536, Henry through Cramner had divorced his 
second wife. The Archbishop curiously enough pronounced exactly 
the same sentence against Anne and her child Elizabeth as he had 
passed three years previously on poor Catherine and the Princess 
Mary. This done, Queen Anne was executed, and Henry forthwith 
married Jane Seymour. 

At length the nation rose against the religious changes in what is 
known as the " Pilgrimage of Grace." The insurgents demanded the 
abolition of the statutes against papal supremacy, the restoration of 
the monasteries, the punishment of Crumwell, the extirpation of 
heresy, and the dismissal of Cranmer, Latimer, and Holgate, the new 
bishops, who were known to have leanings towards Lutheranism and 
who had been most active against the Pope's supremacy. It is un- 
necessary to enter into the details of the rising. It failed ; and terrible 
was the punishment meted out by the King on all who had taken part 
in it, or manifested any sympathy in its objects. Henceforth the 
nation appears to have acquiesced in all Henry's tyrannies and 
religious vagaries with silent submission. The final suppression of 
the religious houses flooded England, of course, with vast numbers of 
poor, who had hitherto found work and assistance at the monasteries. 
The country became a land of rums, since the monastic buildings, which 

the Catholic Church in England 81 

included some of the finest churches in the country from an architectural 
point of view, became the common quarries from which the neighbour- 
ing people obtained stones for road-making, for building their pig- styes 
or their farm out-houses. Consecrated plate of all kinds and precious 
vestments of any value, with mitres and such like, found their way into 
the royal treasury as so much plunder, but blessed bells were only 
considered fit to break into fragments to be sold by the pound weight. 
For ten years there was a veritable reign of terror in England. No 
one was secure. Spies scattered throughout the land reported every- 
thing to their master and numerous executions constantly emphasised 
the fact that the King had all power in his hands, and struck terror 
into the minds of the people generally. The prime mover in all this 
was Thomas Crumwell, the Vicar-General, until he too fell a victim 
to his own laws and was executed in 1540. 

With the separation of England from Rome, and the legal appoint- 
ment of Henry as Head of the Church in place of the Pope, some 
further religious changes were in the nature of things inevitable. 
What these were seem really to have sprung from certain qualities 
in the King's disposition. In the first place came his avarice, which 
had been fed upon the spoils of the Church until it had become a 
ruling passion. This vice may be said with safety to explain his 
cutting down the honours paid to the Saints and their images and the 
destruction of their shrines, the prohibition of Masses for the souls in 
Purgatory, and his projected abolition of chantries and guilds. The 
second quality in Henry's character may be described as his Catholic 
instinct, which he never wholly lost. This forced him to oppose 
Crumwell, Cranmer, and others in their attempts to commit England 
to the full Reformation principles of Germany. In his notes upon 
the Institution of a Christian Man, a book made by the bishops in 
explanation of what people were to believe, the King shows his keen 
theological instinct. Upon the dispensation to work on holy days in 
case of need being mentioned, he notes, for example, " so that we neglect 
not Mass and Evensong." In the same spirit he condemned Lambert 
the heretic for his denial of the corporal Presence of Our Lord in the 
Blessed Eucharist ; he communicated always in one kind, and shortly 
before his death, though ill and suffering, he rose from his seat at Mass 
to kneel, and in answer to the remonstrances of his courtiers for thus 
casting himself on his knees, he said: " If I could throw myself down 


82 A Short History of 

not only on the ground but under the ground, I should not then think 
that I gave honour enough to the most holy Sacrament." 

Henry's Reformation changes had regard chiefly to certain slight 
modifications in the Divine Service, to various Confessions of Faith 
and Manuals of Devotion, and to the Bible in English. The year 1538 
was the high-water mark of the power of the Reforming party in his 
reign, and in the "Injunctions" issued in September by Crumwell, 
with the King's approval, all were ordered to see " to the removal of 
all images, which had been abused by pilgrimages, offerings, or 
candles set up to them," and to " the discontinuance of all perma- 
nent lights in Churches, except one in the rood-loft, another before the 
Sacrament, and a third over against the Sepulchre." Apart from this 
attack on images nothing was done against the old order except the 
abolition of certain holy days, at the request of the London merchants, 
who represented that the great number of feasts was interfering with 
trade. The King, however, in his private chapel continued to keep them 
all. On the other hand, in A.D. 1539, the continuance of the ancient 
ceremonies of the Church, including holy bread and holy water, ashes 
on Ash Wednesday, candles on the Purification, and the Creeping to 
the Cross on Good Friday, was ordered by royal proclamation to be 
observed as heretofore. Further, beyond a general erasure of the 
Pope's name from the missal and breviary in A.D. 1535 ; and later, the 
cutting out of the office for St. Thomas Becket, nothing was done to 
the official liturgical service-books. Certain manuals of private 
devotion were, however, printed to supersede those which had been 
in use in mediaeval times, and in these various changes, especially in 
regard to the old devotions to the Saints, can be detected which point 
to the working of Protestant influences. This is very noticeable in the 
Primers, especially in the Prefaces ; and the edition issued by Bishop 
Hilsey, with its shortened invocations, had a sort of official sanction. 

Hitherto, formularies of faith other than the time-honoured creeds 
of Christendom, had been unknown in England. From the date of the 
breach with Rome in A.D. 1536, however, until the production of the 
Articles in A.D. 1571, Englishmen were to know a great variety of 
"Confessions" of their belief. At the beginning of this period of 
thirty-five years it was perhaps to be expected that the new Head of 
the Church would think well to state exactly his theological position. 
This he did in no less than four official declarations: "The Ten 

the Catholic Church in England 83 

Articles," (A.D. 1536), the " Institution of a Christian Man " (A.D, 1537), 
the " Six Articles " (A.D. 1537), and the " Necessary Doctrine and Erudi- 
tion for any Christian Man " (A.D. 1539). The first of these, the Ten 
Articles, was chiefly the King's own work, in which he was assisted by 
Bishop Fox of Hereford. The formulary was discussed, approved by 
Convocation, and issued by Henry to his subjects as an authoritative 
declaration of what they were to believe. Cranmer made a speech at 
the assembly, and deliberately questioned the reality of the Sacraments, 
save the Lord's Supper and Baptism. The whole speech is Protestant 
in tone, and Crumwell, who presided, Fox and Alexander Ales 
(Cranmer's guest) , who were present, were strong Reformers. It is con- 
sequently not surprising to find in the Ten Articles that only three of 
the Sacraments namely the Eucharist, Baptism and Penance are 
treated ; and in view of Cranmer's speech, in which he declared that 
their business was to see whether " Orders, Anealing, Confirmation, and 
other Sacraments, which were not institute of Christ, were real 
Sacraments," the omission of these seems deliberate and advised as 
the result of their deliberations. The Institution usually known as 
the " Bishops' Book," as it was not formally approved by Convocation 
or issued by the King was meant to supply the deficiencies of the 
Ten Articles, as it dealt with the other four Sacraments. Both books, 
however, from a theological standpoint were no doubt intended to be 
a compromise between the Old and the New Learning and represented 
only a passing phase of Henry's theological teaching. The third 
book, the Necessary Doctrine, was a revision of the Institution ; but 
its tone was certainly more conservative on all questions, except as 
regards the position and authority of the King in matters ecclesiastical. 
Greater prominence is given in this book to the Sacrament of the 
Eucharist, and the practice of Communion under one kind is specially 
defended and insisted upon. Finally the Six Articles asserted (1) 
the natural Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist, and a doctrine 
identical with Transubstantiation ; (2) that Communion under both 
kinds was not necessary for salvation ; (3) that the marriage of priests 
was unlawful ; (4) that vows of chastity were binding ; (5) that private 
Masses should be continued, and (6) that auricular Confession was 
" expedient and necessary." For holding or maintaining any belief 
contrary to the first the penalty was to be the "pains of death by 
way of burning" ; for any opinion contrary to the other articles the 

84 A Short History of 

first offence entailed forfeiture and imprisonment, the second involved 
the death of a felon. 

It remains to say a word about the English Bible. As early as 
A.D. 1526 Tyndale, with the avowed object of spreading the Lutheran 
principles and tenets in England, had printed a New Testament 
abroad and procured its circulation in England. It was full of 
obvious and not unintentional mistranslations and glosses, and at the 
instance of the bishops it was prohibited by the King. This was 
followed by the translation of the whole Bible made by Miles Coverdale 
in Zurich, and at Crumwell's instigation it was allowed to be circulated 
in England. Then came in A.D. 1537 Matthew's Bible, and in 
A.D. 1539 " The Great Bible," attributed to the bishops and published 
with the King's approbation. Henry, however, apparently always 
viewed the dissemination of the vernacular Scriptures with suspicion, 
and at last he came to see that his fears were well founded, and that 
it was absolutely necessary to restrict the Bible reading to the 
learned. Bishop Bonner, owing to the noise and irreverence caused 
in churches by frequent discussions, was obliged in A.D. 1540 to 
remove the six chained Bibles from St. Paul's. In A.D. 1543 the King 
passed an Act forbidding any part of the Scriptures to be read by the 
lower orders, ordering all Bibles with Tyndale's name to be destroyed 
and all notes in other Bibles to be obliterated. In A.D. 1546 Cover- 
dale's Bible was also prohibited, and Henry, in what was practically 
his last speech in Parliament, fully acknowledged the failure of his 
experiment in allowing promiscuous Bible reading : "I am very 
sorry to know how that most precious jewel the Word of God is 
disputed, rhymed, sung, and jangled in every alehouse. I am equally 
sorry that the readers of the same follow it so faintly and coldly in 
living ; for this I am sure that charity was never so faint among 
you and virtuous and godly living was never less used and God Him- 
self among Christians was never less reverenced, honoured and served." 
Truly a melancholy confession by the King of the evil results flowing 
from his religious revolution and his attempt at Church government, 
made just before his death, which took place on January 28, 1547. 

It may be useful at this point to pause in our survey of events and 
try to gain a clear idea of the actual religious situation in England at 
the death of Henry VIII. The English king was now practically an 

the Catholic Church in England 85 

absolute monarch, and the people had been taught by many hard 
lessons that his will was to be regarded as law, In religious matters 
no less than in affairs of State, for the first time in the history of the 
country, the monarch was supreme. This position had been secured 
to him by the untiring efforts and consummate diplomacy of Thomas 
Crumwell, the King's Vicar-General in Spirituals, perhaps the most 
sagacious and capable of any minister who has ever served an English 
sovereign and certainly one of the most unscrupulous. Under his 
management, and, in the main at least, as the outcome of his fertile 
brain, changes great and important had undoubtedly marked and 
followed upon the rejection of the Catholic principle of papal authority 
and the assumption by the late sovereign of the Supreme Headship 
of the Church in England. Such changes were, however, in a 
measure, external to the practical religious life of the nation generally. 
The hopes entertained by the German Eeformers of winning England 
to the principles of the Lutheran revolt from Rome, encouraged as 
they had been by a temporary vacillation on the part of Henry and 
by their knowledge of the active support given to those principles by 
a band of sympathisers headed by Archbishop Cranmer himself, were 
doomed to be disappointed. In the end, by his royal Supremacj', 
Henry repressed, with a strong hand, all dangerous foreign innova- 
tions in the religious teaching and practices of the English Church, 
and the royal power was exerted as much against the upholders of 
the Reformed doctrines as against those of the " old Faith " who 
clung to the Pope as the main safeguard of Christian unity and the 
divinely appointed head of the Universal Church. 

There were strange contradictions visible to all who might look. 
The country itself from one point of view was indeed a veritable land 
of ruins. Everywhere, in cities and towns, on the great high-roads 
and in secluded, out-of-the-way places, from one end of England 
to the other and across its breadth, the gaunt and blackened walls of 
the destroyed abbeys and other religious houses bore their plain, 
though silent, testimony to some great national upheaval. At the 
same time in the cathedrals and parish churches all over the land 
religious services went on very much as generations of Catholic 
worshippers had remembered them. Here and there, it is true, as 
at Canterbury, or Winchester, or Durham or elsewhere, a dismantled 
shrine, or altar robbed of its rich ornaments, or smashed painted 

86 A Short History of 

window, gave some indication of the insatiable greed of Henry, or of 
his strange fanatical hostility to the Saints of God in general and to 
St. Thomas Becket in particular. But all through the reign right 
to the end, in spite of all the religious upheaval, in the parochial 
churches, Matins, Mass, and Evensong went on as before ; in the 
pulpits the Catholic sacramental system was taught, and the seven 
sacraments were administered by the clergy to the people as they 
had been from the days of St. Augustine then nearly a thousand years 

It is hard to realise this strange state of affairs. The religious con- 
dition of England was a perplexity to intelligent foreigners who re- 
garded it from a distance, no less than to the people of the country 
itself. To these, unquestionably, taken as a body, the King's pro- 
ceedings in his ecclesiastical capacity as the head of the Church of 
England were unpopular and distasteful. There were of course some, 
perhaps many, restless spirits to whom the King's opposition to the 
introduction of the foreign Reformation principles into England, was 
as galling as it was inexplicable. But these were only the few, and 
as a nation, at the death of Henry, Englishmen were content to 
believe as their forefathers had, just as they still worshipped God in 
the great Sacrifice of the Mass as generations had done before them. 

the Catholic Church in England 87 




EDWARD VI., the son of Jane Seymour, was only nine years of age 
when his father, Henry VIII., died. By careful management the 
Reforming party under the Earl of Hertford captured the authority. 
It was significant of the coming policy that Wriothesley, the 
Chancellor, and Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, both hitherto known 
as opposing innovations in religion, were left out of the Council. 
Hertford was made Duke of Somerset, and his brother, Sir Thomas 
Seymour, became Lord Seymour of Sudeley, and from the first, reli- 
gious enactments occupied a good deal of the attention of Somerset, 
now the Lord Protector, and his counsellors. 

At the outset the bishops were required to take out fresh commis- 
sions to exercise their spiritual functions just as other officials of 
the State, the royal power being declared in the preamble of the 
letters to be the source of all jurisdiction whether civil or ecclesiasti- 
cal. Cranmer set a willing example of prompt obedience in this ; but 
to the others the requirement was eminently distasteful, and Bishop 
Gardiner even protested at this novel and derogatory demand. 
Cranmer and the Council were at this time educating themselves 
rapidly in the principles of Lutheranism, and the Archbishop was in 

88 A Short History of 

constant communication with the advanced Reformers in Germany. 
Within a month of the King's accession there were images mutilated 
and destroyed in some London churches, and sermons were preached 
against the observance of Lent, which acts, in spite of Bishop 
Gardiner's protest, remained unpunished. In May the bishops were 
forbidden to make visitations in their various dioceses, in view of a 
royal visitation that was in contemplation. This order was, however, 
relaxed, and on the last day of June the King's printer issued two 
publications under the authority of the Council. These were the 
well-known " Injunctions" of Edward VI. and the equally well-known 
" Homilies." The first were addressed to all, lay as well as clerical, 
and their object was, amongst other things, to maintain periodical 
preaching against " the Bishop of Rome's usurped power and 
jurisdiction," and to order the destruction of images, shrines, and 
pictures. The Litany was no longer to be said in procession, but 
kneeling; and the Epistle and Gospel were to be read in English. 
The " Book of Homilies" consisted of twelve discourses, which had 
been drawn up some years before and proposed to Convocation, but 
had not then been approved. They were now issued by the authority 
of the Council. 

In September, Bishops Bonner and Gardiner were sent to prison 
for resistance to the changes generally, and in particular for their 
objection to the above-named "Injunctions and Homilies," which 
they considered could not be properly issued with authority whilst 
the King was under age. Gardiner especially strongly criticised the 
Homily on Salvation, which was Cranmer's own composition, and he 
was fetched from prison for a day on purpose to argue the matter 
with the Archbishop. Meanwhile during this same month of 
September a general visitation was in progress, when by order of 
the Visitors the images at St. Paul's and in the London churches 
generally were pulled down and broken. The churches were at the 
same time whitewashed to destroy the painted pictures and frescoes, 
in place of which the Ten Commandments were written upon the 

Parliament met in November, A.D. 1547, whilst Bishop Gardiner 
was still a prisoner in the Fleet. Of the business done at this time 
the most important, from our point of view, was an Act about the 
Sacrament. It first contained a provision for the punishment of 

the Catholic Church in England 89 

irreverent speaking about it, which was becoming very common, and 
then it ordered that the Communion should henceforth be adminis- 
tered to the laity under both kinds, which it is right to say had 
previously been suggested by Convocation. 

In the same Parliament the process of spoliation of the Church 
initiated in the late reign was continued. A Bill was passed, in spite 
of considerable opposition in the House of Lords most of the 
bishops, including Cranmer, speaking against it giving to the Crown 
all colleges, free chapels, and chantries, with all endowments for 
obits or anniversaries, as well as the property of all guilds and 
brotherhoods. By this measure not only was the gravest injustice 
done to the members of the various guilds, which formed the 
charitable associations, insurance societies, burial and sick clubs of 
Catholic England the funds thus taken representing for the most 
part the savings of the poor but religion suffered the gravest injury 
by the confiscation of chantry funds and obit revenues, which were 
in many, if not most, cases intended to supply stipends for additional 
curates in populous parishes. 

Early in A.D. 1548 Cranmer intimated that the Council had 
abrogated the Catholic practices of blessed candles, ashes, and palms, 
but that no other innovations were to be made except the above, and 
the omission of the old ceremonies of Creeping to the Cross, the 
taking of holy water and holy bread, which apparently on his own 
authority Cranmer had already forbidden in his diocese. On March 8th 
was published a little book giving the "Order of the Communion," 
as it was henceforth to be administered under the Act of Parliament. 
The Latin Mass was, however, neither abrogated nor superseded, the 
new ritual being intended only for the communion of the laity. The 
most important feature in this new "Order" was the General 
Confession, which, as it expressly declared, was to do away with the 
necessity for the private confession of the individual if he had no 
wish to be shriven. The form was essentially that of the celebrated 
Consultatio of Hermann von Wied, the Archbishop of Cologne, 
which had just appeared in an English translation. 

Cranmer, however, was already preparing for further liturgical 
changes. About this time he proposed a series of questions on the 
Sacrament to the bishops. One of these queries had reference to 
the nature of the Oblation of Christ in the Mass, and was an 

90 A Short History of 

indication of some serious attack about to be made upon the great 
Christian Sacrifice. Meanwhile Bishop Gardiner had been giving 
the Council no peace. He had been set free under promise to preach 
to their satisfaction, and he had chosen St. Peter's day, June 29, 
1548, to proclaim his belief in " the very presence " of Christ's body 
and blood in the Blessed Sacrament. In the afternoon of the follow- 
ing day he found himself a prisoner in the Tower. 

All was prepared for abrogating the old service books by the 
autumn of the year 1548. In September there was evidently some 
peculiar service actually being used in the royal chapel and about 
the same time a committee of the bishops, probably at Windsor and 
Chertsey, had composed the Uniform Order of praj'er, which was soon 
afterwards laid before Parliament and received the sanction of law. 
On November 24, 1548, the Houses met after the prorogation, and at 
once proceeded to debate the question of the marriage of priests, and 
though the measure sanctioning it quickly passed the Commons, it 
was dela3 r ed till February in the Lords. 

On December 14, A.D. 1548, the draft of the new Prayer Book was 
introduced into the Lords and a long and earnest debate followed, to 
hear which, it is said, the Commons flocked to the galleries. In this 
debate it appeared clearly that Cranmer had given up all belief in 
Transubstantiation and in the Sacrificial character of the Eucharist. 
During the course of the discussion also it was shown that the draft 
of the service book had been already submitted to the bishops who 
were then not in prison, except Day of Chichester, and that they had 
signed the proposed draft, but with the idea that this was not 
necessarily approving it. Moreover, Bishop Thirlby, in the course of 
the discussion, pointed out that a trick had been played upon them ; 
in the copy which had been shown them the word " Oblation " was 
still to be seen in the Canon, and it had been afterwards erased with- 
out their knowledge. Parliament finally authorised the Book by a 
statute the first Act of Uniformity on January 15, 1549, ordering 
all to make use of it under severe pains and penalties after the 
determined date. 

The Communion Service in the first Book of Common Prayer 
whatever else it is, is certainly not the Mass in English. It was so 
different, indeed, even to the eyes of the common people, that they 
christened it "a Christmas game," and this although obvious care 

the Catholic Church in England 91 

was taken by its compilers to preserve some outward resemblance 
to the ancient liturgy in the disposition of its parts. All idea of 
" Oblation " and " Sacrifice " had been carefully cut out of the new 
service ; and the very centre of the ancient Mass, the Canon, every 
word and syllable of which was held sacred by the Church, which was 
substantially the same in every Western liturgy, was mutilated beyond 
recognition. The very words of " Institution " or " Consecration," 
also, which it might have been thought even Cranmer would have 
regarded as too sacred to touch, were rejected in favour of a new 
form taken from the Lutheran use of Nuremberg, which had been 
drawn up by Osiander, Cranmer's relative by marriage. In a word, 
both in substance and spirit the first Prayer Book of Edward VI. 
was conceived in a Lutheran sense. It was as little a translation 
of the old Catholic liturgy of the Mass as the Lutheran productions 
of the sixteenth century, which were ostensibly based upon an entire 
rejection of the Sacrificial character of the Mass. 

At this period, and, indeed, from the early days of Edward's reign, 
Cranmer was constantly inviting foreign divines over to England to 
assist in the change of religion. Fagius, Alasco, Bucer, Peter Martyr 
and others had already found places at our Universities ; for these 
indeed required all Cranmer's authority to turn them from the old 
theology to the New learning. These foreigners, however, did not, 
unfortunately for their peace, agree with one another as to their 
doctrine ; for Bucer held what was considered higher views about 
the Sacrament than Martyr did, although they both were at one in 
rejecting the Catholic doctrine. Even Martyr, however, wished much 
for Bucer's presence in the country before he came, since in his 
private letters he confessed that the position in England was a 
difficult one for a Eeformer, seeing that all who possessed any learning 
in the country were opposed to the new ideas. 

If the changes in religion were disliked by the learned, they 
were equally disapproved of by the people of England generally. 
The new Prayer Book came into use on Whit Sunday, June 9, 1549 
and the very next day the people of Sampford Courtenay, in Devon, 
compelled their parish priest to return to the old Missal. This 
was the beginning of a rising in Devon, Cornwall and elsewhere, 
which at one time seemed likely to be serious, as Exeter was 
besieged for six weeks, The insurgents sent up their "Articles" to 

92 A Short History of 

the Council, and they were plain demands for the restoration of 
religion as it was before all the late changes, and their words leave no 
doubt that the alterations were universally disliked. The movement 
was put down by Warwick with a large force, and the usual executions 
struck terror into the hearts of those who objected so strongly to the 
introduction of Cramner's Lutheranism. In connection with this 
rising in the West, Bishop Bonner found himself in trouble. He was 
ordered to preach on the unlawfulness of rebellion, and, like Gardiner, 
he took advantage of a large audience assembled to hear him to 
speak much on the doctrine of the Keal Presence of Christ in the 
Eucharist. He was at once summoned to answer for his boldness, 
and took exception to Latimer and Hooper sitting as his judges, since 
they were, he said, notorious heretics on the matter of the Sacrament. 
Of course his case was prejudged. He was at once declared to be 
deprived of his bishopric, and on October 1, 1549, was committed 
a prisoner to the Marshalsea. 

Just a week after this the Protector, Somerset, was himself adjudged 
to be a traitor, through the influence of his rival Warwick, who 
subsequently became the Duke of Northumberland. In another week, 
October 14th, the late Protector found himself lodged in the Tower. 
At first it was believed by the nation that his fall portended a 
religious reaction. Mass was again forthwith celebrated at Oxford 
in the college chapels and elsewhere, and even Hooper thought 
there were such good grounds for this idea of a return to the old 
religion, that he wrote his fears to his friends abroad. I expect, 
he said, soon to "be restored to my country and my Father 
which is in Heaven." Meanwhile, however, the flood of contro- 
versial and pernicious literature of the most scurrilous kind against 
the old religion, and in particular against the Mass, continued un- 
checked. " The Government really wanted argument on one side 
only; and it is past a doubt," says Mr. Gairdner, "that they 
favoured indirectly the spread of a kind of literature which they 
professed openly to condemn." 

Parliament met again on November 4, 1549. Among other 
ecclesiastical business it was asked to transact early in the following 
year was a measure intended to further purify the churches even 
from external evidences of the old Faith. All images were ordered 
to be removed and destroyed at once, except, as the Act says some- 

the Catholic Church in England 93 

what comically, monumental images " of any king, prince, noble- 
man or other dead person which hath not been commonly reputed 
or taken for a saint ! " In this same Parliament, on January 8, 
A.D. 1550, a Bill for a new Ordinal was introduced into the House of 
Peers. It gave rise to considerable discussion, and out of fourteen 
bishops present, five voted against it, many of the Catholic prelates 
being of course in prison. It is called " A New form and manner 
of making and consecrating archbishops, bishops, priests and 
deacons," and it was approved of by Parliament in anticipation and 
ordered to be ready for April 1. Bishop Heath, " for that he did 
obstinately refuse to subscribe" to the proposed substitution for 
the old Pontifical, was lodged in the Fleet prison on March 4. The 
new Ordinal did for the Catholic Pontifical what the Prayer Book had 
done for the Missal. Having first swept away all the Minor Orders 
with the Subdiaconate, the compilers carefully and systematically 
changed the old traditional forms of Orders in the advanced Lutheran 
sense. Having in the Prayer Book got rid of the Sacrifice, the 
Ordinal logically expunged every suggestion of the sacrificial cha- 
racter of the priesthood. 

Eidley, one of the advanced reformers, was now established in 
the See of the deprived and imprisoned Bishop Bonner. He thought 
that, in the Visitation he made in London in the spring of A.D. 1550, 
he might safely take another step forward and get rid of the altars 
from the churches, their demolition having already been decreed by 
an Order of Council signed by Cranmer, Goodrich, and others, which 
set forth the reasons for their destruction, drawn up by Eidley 
himself. The abolition of the Sacrifice and the sacrificing priest 
had obviously made them obsolete and unnecessary. Eidley con- 
sequently directed the churchwardens to procure in their place 
"the form of a table," in order " more and more to turn the simple 
from the old superstitious opinions of the popish Mass." The sub- 
stitute for the altar was to be " after the form of an honest table 
decently covered," and was to be placed anywhere in the chancel or 
choir, as most convenient. At St. Paul's various experiments were 
made, both as to the best position for the " Lord's board," and as to 
the place where the minister could most conveniently stand at it. 
" When your table was constituted," said Bishop White of Winchester 
four years later to Eidley, " you could never be content in placing the 

94 A Short History of 

same, now cast, now north, now one way, now another, until it 
pleased God of His goodness to place it clean out of the church." 
The bishop, too, doubtless represented a very general feeling at 
the time when he added: " A goodly receiving, I promise you, to set 
an oyster table instead of an altar, and to come from puddings at 
Westminster to receive." 

But a stronger Calvinist even than Ridley now urged on the more 
advanced party in the reforming direction. John Hooper, on April 7, 
1550, was offered the bishopric of Gloucester and he refused it, because 
of the oath he would be required to take under the New Ordinal, 
which mentioned the saints of God ; but more especially because of 
the vestments he would be required to wear, which he looked upon as 
Aaronic abominations. " You have got rid of the Mass," he said, 
"then rid yourself of the feathers of the Mass also." Some people 
were not, however, prepared to sacrifice these ornaments at once. 
There was some hesitation also, about letting Hooper be consecrated 
on his own terms, and so matters remained for another year. By 
that time ideas had advanced further on the down grade, and Cranmer 
made him a bishop according to the New Ordinal on his own terms. 

The destruction of altars sorely tried the consciences of many, and 
in particular of some of the bishops still at liberty. It was a good 
indication of the lengths to which the Reforming party had already 
gone in destroying the old religion. Bishop Day of Chichester posi- 
tively refused to obey a royal letter sent to him with peremptory 
orders to see that all the altars in his diocese were destroyed at once 
and tables substituted for them. On December 11, A.D. 1550, after 
every means of inducing him to comply had been tried and had 
failed, he was sent to join Bishops Bonner, Gardiner, Tunstall, and 
Heath in prison. In February, 1551, Gardiner was declared incorri- 
gible and his See of Winchester was taken from him and given 
to a Reforming prelate, John Ponet, who was translated from the 
See of Rochester. 

The same year, 1551, the poor Princess Mary was much persecuted 
for her determination on no account to have the new service in her 
chapel. She had resolved to maintain the Sacrifice of the Mass, and 
had up to this time managed to secure this. Now, however, one of 
her chaplains, Dr. Mallet, was arrested for the second time and sent 
to the Tower, in spite of Mary's protests, for offering up the Holy 

the Catholic Church in England 95 

Sacrifice in her chapel; whilst others were also arrested for being 
present at it. 

The time was now approaching for Cranmer to take his final 
measures for the complete destruction of the old order. From 
the date of its issue there is evidence to show that he was himself 
dissatisfied with the First Prayer Book. He had by that time grown 
out of his Lutheranism, and had come, as time went on, more and 
more under the influence of Calvin and his adherents. Calvin wrote to 
him from Geneva to be active while there was time, and to eradicate 
the last traces of superstition; and Cranmer in return urged him 
to ply King Edward with letters on the matter so as to hasten on the 
movement. At length all was prepared. Parliament met in January, 
1552, and on the first day a Bill was placed before the Lords to 
compel people to come "to common prayer"; but before this could 
pass, another Act was proposed for amending the First Prayer Book, 
because doubts had arisen as to the meaning of the book. What 
those doubts were cannot be doubtful. They were suggested by the 
action of those who had tried to read the traditional Catholic doctrine 
of the Eucharist into Cranmer's Lutheran formulary. Before the 
Second Book of Common Prayer came into use, commissions were sent 
out by the Council to seize all Church plate and vestments which had 
been left in the churches after the first spoliation. November 1, 1552, 
was the day appointed for the introduction of the new Service Book, 
and up to the last moment there are evidences of changes being intro- 
duced with the object of lowering the reverence hitherto shown by the 
faithful to the Sacrament at its reception. As to the Book itself, it is 
sufficient to say that it is undoubtedly Calvinistic in its conception and 
doctrine. Even the slight outward similarity to the Mass, which the 
Communion Service of the First Prayer Book had preserved, was 
now obliterated. To use an expression of one who lived at the 
time, the compilers of this new liturgy "had made a very hay of the 
Mass." Of the ancient Canon, which the Apostolic See from the 
earliest ages possessed and had kept inviolate, nothing was allowed 
to survive. Great Popes like St. Leo and St. Gregory had inserted 
a few words with fear and reverence into this sacred inheritance of 
the Church. They would have considered it sacrilegious and impious 
to alter or reject any part of it. Cranmer and the Edwardian Be- 
formers felt no such scruple. They mutilated, altered, rejected, and 

g6 A Short History of 

inserted to their hearts' content, and finally they got rid of nearly 
every portion of it. The outcome of their work may be studied in 
the Anglican Communion Service to-day, which is substantially that 
of the Prayer Book of A.D. 1552. 

The work of destruction was completed, although even now there 
were indications that further reformation was intended. Fortunately, 
however, Edward VI. died on July 6, 1553, a few months only after 
the Second Prayer Book had been in use. 

the Catholic Church in England 97 


ON July 19, A.D. 1553, Queen Mary was proclaimed in London. 
The fortnight which had elapsed since King Edward's death had 
sufficed to secure the downfall of the Protestant party under the 
Duke of Northumberland, and to terminate the nine days' reign of 
their chosen ruler, Lady Jane Grey. 

At the beginning, Queen Mary undoubtedly desired to be tolerant 
towards those who professed the new religion. In a proclamation 
issued on the day before she reached London, she urged her subjects 
to live together "in quiet sort and Christian charity," and to avoid 
making use of the " new found devilish terms of papist and heretic." 
On this same day Northumberland and others were brought to trial, 
and pleading guilty were condemned to death. On July 21st the 
Duke attended Mass in the Tower, and, together with the Marquess 
of Northampton and others, came before the altar and professed 
that they all desired to die in the true Catholic faith ; the Duke 
in particular called on all present to bear witness to his belief in 
the Blessed Sacrament. The following day upon the scaffold he 
made a similar profession, and asked Bishop Heath, his confessor, 
to testify to the truth of his conversion. 

In the matter she had so much at heart, the restoration of the 
old religion, Mary desired to proceed with all caution. Some of 
the acts of the late reign were speedily undone, as being unjust. 
The appeals of Bishops Bonner and Tunstall against deprivation, 
which they had made in vain during Edward's reign, were now 


98 A Short History of 

heard, and they were restored to their Sees. So also Bishops 
Gardiner, Heath, and Day were again recognised legally as bishops, 
and Bishop Voysey of Exeter was restored on the ground that, 
although he had resigned, he was compelled to do so " by just fear 
both of body and soul." 

On September 23, 1553, Bishop Gardiner was made Chancellor, 
and on the following day the Feast of St. Bartholomew the Latin 
Mass was sung in " the Shrouds " at St. Paul's, and in at least two 
other London parish churches, in response to the wishes and 
feelings of the people. On Sunday, the 27th, the old service was again 
used in the Cathedral itself, and in this and the following month 
several solemn Dirges, or Offices of the Dead, were sung in the City 
and at Westminster, with Requiem Masses at which prayers for 
the souls of the departed were asked. All these things, however, 
were indications of the goodwill of the people, since it was only on 
the 21st of December following that Mass was sung as of old in all 
churches by Act of Parliament. 

Meanwhile, before the meeting of Parliament, the foreign Protestant 
divines had hastened to leave London. Peter Martyr, whom 
Cranmer had advised to save himself by flight, obtained a passport 
from the Queen without any difficulty, as Mary had clearly no wish 
whatever to persecute. Cranmer, who had committed himself more 
seriously and had called special attention to himself by a prematurely 
disclosed challenge to a religious disputation, was on September 14th 
committed to the Tower on a charge of treason. 

Parliament met on October 5, 1553. Meanwhile Mary had already 
placed herself in communication with the Pope, and Cardinal Pole 
had been nominated as legate. Four days also before the assembly of 
Parliament the Queen had been crowned at Westminster by Bishop 
Gardiner, having promised by her coronation oath, not only to 
preserve all the liberties of the realm, but to maintain the rights 
of the Holy See. The session of Parliament was opened, as of old, by 
a Mass of the Holy Ghost, at which the Queen was present, and at 
which Gardiner spoke explaining the need of unity in the Church of 
God, and confessing that he had shared with the rest in the guilt 
of schism. As regards the Church, the most important proceedings 
of this Parliament reversed the legislation of Edward's reign con- 
cerning the Sacraments, the Act of Uniformity, and the marriage of 

the Catholic Church in England 99 

priests. The Edwardine Church services, moreover, were tolerated 
only until December the 20th. The Queen permitted a discussion 
in the Houses about the title " Supreme Head of the Church of 
England," given by Act of Parliament to the Sovereign. Her own 
view was well known, for in the writs summoning Parliament it had 
already been dropped. 

On November 13, whilst Parliament was still sitting, Cranmer was 
indicted with Lady Jane Grey and others for treason and, pleading 
guilty, received sentence of death. Their attainders were confirmed 
by Parliament just before it was dissolved, though for a time at least 
the sentence was not carried into effect. So far as Cranmer was 
concerned, however, by the sentence of death the See of Canter- 
bury became vacant, and the jurisdiction passed into the hands of 
the Dean and Chapter. Meanwhile the advanced Reformers, who 
had taken refuge abroad, commenced to bombard England with 
scurrilous and offensive productions against the Queen, the bishops, 
and the Catholic religion. Nothing was too sacred to escape their 
venomous invectives. At the same time the declaration of Mary's 
intention to marry Philip was certainly unpopular, and so far 
unfortunate. Insurrections of a more or less serious nature took 
place in various parts of the country, which culminated in Wyatt's 
rebellion. All of these caused a temporary interruption in the 
negotiations for a complete return of England to union with Home. 

The new year, 1554, witnessed many restorations of the old ritual 
Several of the Edwardine bishops were deprived; some who had 
been made bishops according to the new Ordinal having their 
episcopal character ignored in the process. The married clergy were 
removed from their cures, but a not inconsiderable number of 
those who had been rightfully ordained, after doing penance and 
separating from their wives, received new livings. 

Parliament met at Oxford on April 2, to ratify the conditions of 
marriage between the Queen and Philip, and at this time was held 
the celebrated disputation on the Eucharist between Cranmer, 
Ridley, Latimer, and the Catholics. The doctrine of the three 
Reformers was naturally condemned, and they were later called upon 
to retract. On July 12, 1554, Philip of Spain landed at Southampton, 
and the Queen was married to him at Winchester by Bishop Gardiner 
on the 25th of that month. 

ioo A Short History of 

In September, 1554, Bishop Bonner held an episcopal Visitation of 
his diocese of London. The articles of inquiry were most minute, 
and traversed the changes made by the acts of the late reign. The 
bishop required to know whether everything had been done that 
could be done to correct what had been put wrong. Was the priest 
married? Had he received irregular or schismatical ordination? 
Was there a proper stone altar, and did the parish supply the 
necessary books, chalice, vestments, &c. ? Was the Blessed 
Sacrament reserved in a pyx hung over the altar ? and other 
questions of this kind, which several parishes objected to, not on the 
ground that they were improper to ask, but because it had been 
impossible by that time to carry out the changes required of them. 

For one reason or another, the coming of Cardinal Pole was still 
delayed. It was, perhaps, as well that this was so, since those who 
were in possession of confiscated Church property were filled with 
fears that reunion with Rome would necessarily mean the surrender 
of these possessions to the ecclesiastical authorities. Pole was able 
to assure them privately, however, that as the Church might alienate, 
it might also surrender a right, and that for the good of religion She 
was prepared to do so in this case. And so in November, A.D. 1554, 
after Parliament had reversed the attainder which still stood on the 
Statute roll against him, Pole landed in England. He was well 
received, and on November 28, he met the Parliament and declared 
to the members the object of his legation. The following day both 
Houses joined in petitioning the King and Queen to obtain pardon 
from the Pope for the acts of schism, and asked for reunion with 
Rome. On St. Andrew's Day, November 30th, Pole, after an 
appropriate address, pronounced the desired . absolution ; all even 
the King and Queen kneeling to receive it. The country thus 
returned to the unity of the Church Catholic. 

Before the close of the 3'ear Convocation, which had received its 
own absolution, amongst other things petitioned that Cranmer's 
book on the Sacrament and the English Service Books might be 
all destroyed, and that the Canon law should be restored and 
enforced. At the same time, the old English heresy laws were 
most unfortunately revived by Parliament. Then followed that 
series of miserable executions and burnings which have left a 
lasting legacy of prejudice against the name of Mary and her 

the Catholic Church in England 101 

advisers as well as against the Catholic Church, which the lapse 
of three centuries has not been able to remove. " Preachers of this 
sort " (i.e., the heroes of Foxe) writes Mr. Gairdner " Preachers of 
this sort dared the fire and were prepared for it. The experience of 
twenty years had encouraged them to believe that papal authority 
was no authority at all. The experience of twenty years, on the 
other hand, had convinced Mary and, no doubt, her subjects 
generally, that defiance of papal authority had shaken the foundation 
of all authority whatever. Rebellion and treason had been nourished 
by heresy nay, heresy was the very root from which they sprang. 
And it was really more important in the eyes of Mary to extirpate 
the root than merely to lop off the branches. She had all possible 
desire to show indulgence to the misguided if they could be brought 
to a better state of mind ; and the bishops might, be trusted, 
especially Bishop Bonner, to do their very utmost to dissuade the 

obstinate from rushing on their fate Can it be wondered 

at that the age considered ' erroneous opinions ' dangerous ? The 
burning of heretics was a barbarous, old-fashioned remedy, but it is 
not true that either bishops or the Government adopted it without 

Among those that were executed under these savage laws were 
Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, and Hooper. Cranmer had already been 
sentenced to death for high treason, but had been left to be tried as 
a spiritual man. Had all three been put to death with Northumber- 
land few people could have condemned the judgment, and the 
same might be said of many others who suffered at this time and 
who were really criminals as well as heretics. Cranmer at first 
retracted his errors in the hopes of saving his life, and then finding 
that this did not avail him, he retracted his retraction, and died 
bravely at the stake on March 21, A.D. 1556. 

Bishop Gardiner had passed away some months before, and on 
January 1, 1556, Heath, Archbishop of York, succeeded him as 
Chancellor. Cardinal Pole had meanwhile been appointed by the 
Pope to succeed Cranmer in the See of Canterbury. As he was 
only in deacon's orders, he was ordained priest by Archbishop Heath 
on March 20, 1556, and celebrated Mass for the first time at 
Greenwich, on St. Benedict's Day, March 21 the very day that 
his predecessor suffered at Oxford. The next day, which was a 

102 A Short History of 

Sunday, he was consecrated bishop, and as his presence had been 
necessary in England he had deputed one of his canons to petition 
for his pallium. This he received in state at Bow Church on the 
Lady Day following. 

By this time a beginning had already been made hi restoring the 
monastic system. In April, A.D. 1555, the Grey Friars were installed 
in their old house at Greenwich, and the following year the 
Dominicans were set up in the Church of St. Bartholomew the 
Great in Smithfield. Nuns were again placed at Sion, Carthusians 
at Sheen, and the Observants opened their old home at Southampton. 
On November 21, 1556, Westminster had its Benedictine community 
once more ; and Dr. Feckenham, an old monk of Evesham and late 
Dean of St. Paul's, put on his habit again and became Abbot of the 
reconstituted Abbey. There were dreams of other foundations, 
amongst others of a restoration of Glastonbury, but this fell through 
for want of funds. 

The Parliament which met on January 20, 1558, is chiefly 
memorable from the fact that an Abbot of Westminster and a Prior of 
St. John of Jerusalem again sat in it. Before the end of the year all 
hope of Mary's life being preserved till true religious peace had been 
established in the kingdom was at an end. She passed away on 
November 17, 1558, twelve hours before her friend, Cardinal Pole. 

Mr. Gairdner's estimate of her reign may here profitably be given. 
" History has been cruel to her memory. The horrid epithet ' bloody ' 
bestowed so unscrupulously, alike on her and on Bonner and Gardiner 
and the bishops generally, had, at least, a plausible justification 
in her case from the severities to which she gave her sanction; 
though it was really not just, even to her. The spectacle of those 
cruel proceedings in public and the enduring recollection of them 
afterwards blotted out from the public mind what even at first was 
but imperfectly known the painful trials which she herself had so 
long endured at the hands of lawless persecutors ; yet it was just 
such lawless persecutors who had deranged the whole system of 
Church Government, and as Queen she endeavoured to suppress 
them by means which, if severe, were strictly legal. Among the 
victims, no doubt, there were many true heroes and really honest 
men ; but many of them also would have been persecutors if they 
had had their way. Most of them retained the belief in a Catholic 

the Catholic Church in England 103 

Church but rejected the Mass, and held by the services authorised 
in Edward VI.'s reign. But, of course, this meant complete 
rejection of an older authority higher, according to time-honoured 
theory, than that of any King or Parliament which had never 
been openly set aside until that generation." 

104 A Short History of 


A FEW hours only after Mary's death, on November 17, 1558, the 
Commons were summoned to the bar of the House of Lords. There 
Heath, Archbishop of York, proclaimed her sister, the Lady Elizabeth, 
Queen. " Of her most lawful right and title to the crown," he said, 
" none could make question." No voice was raised in opposition, and 
a week later, when the new Queen made her entry into London, she 
was met at Highgate by all the Catholic bishops, who knelt to do her 
homage and profess their complete loyalty. 

What the religious convictions of the Queen were was not at first 
considered, and though there were strong reasons for supposing that 
she would throw herself into the arms of the Reforming party, it was 
thought that personally she was not troubled with any very strong 
convictions 011 matters of religion. This seemed more than likely. 
Under Edward VI. Elizabeth had professed his varied forms of 
Protestantism; under her sister she had returned to the practice 
of the Catholic religion, and, according to one contemporary account, 
when the late Queen on her deathbed had conjured her to declare her 
real convictions, Elizabeth is said to have "prayed God (that) the 
earth might open and swallow her up alive if she were not a true 
Roman Catholic." Whatever people may have thought then about 
her religion, it did not prevent the popular reception of her as Queen ; 
all parties, as she herself declared, united in receiving her with true 
loyalty. This should be quite sufficient to disprove the silly story 
that the Queen's subsequent attitude towards Catholics was caused at 
the beginning of her reign by the Pope's refusal to accept her as 
rightful Sovereign of England, and the consequent hostile reception 

the Catholic Church in England 105 

of her by English Catholics, in obedience to his voice. The Catholics 
from the first, as represented by Archbishop Heath and all the bishops, 
undoubtedly acknowledged her as the lawful successor of Queen Mary. 
Moreover, only a few weeks after her accession, Sir Edward Carne 
wrote from Rome to Cecil to inform him that the Pope, Paul IV., in 
spite of the efforts of the French, had refused to declare himself against 
her succession as Queen, and would be ready to recognise her if she 
would first formally send to acquaint him of her accession. 

Two days after her reception in London, on November 25, 1558, the 
Imperial ambassador wrote to his master that "though no change had 
yet been made in religion " that is, in hardly more than one week 
from her accession it was easy to conjecture in what way lay her 
desires and what she intended. This was at once made absolutely 
clear by the constitution of her Council, in which, whilst retaining 
thirteen of Mary's old advisers, she placed eight of her own, all well 
known as favouring the " Reformed " religion. At the head of this 
mixed Council she put the celebrated Sir William Cecil (afterwards 
Lord Burleigh), to whom more than to any one else she owed the 
complete success of her religious policy. By Cecil's advice a secret 
Cabinet within the Cabinet was formed, consisting of himself and four 
others upon whom he could implicitly rely, and by this means he and 
Elizabeth were able to make all their plans for the change of religion 
in secret and at their leisure. The general principle upon which they 
acted, as stated by the Protestant historian Collier, was " that it was 
by no means advisable to allow of more than one Church ; that the 
free exercise of different religions would prove an everlasting principle 
of sedition and disturbance." 

That the Queen and Cecil had already made up their minds in the 
first few weeks of the reign as to the peculiar form of national 
religion which alone was to be tolerated, is certain. A paper of Sir 
Thomas Smith, one of Cecil's chief lieutenants, is still in existence, in 
which the whole scheme is drawn out in detail. It is a document 
giving instructions to a select committee of Reformers, most of whom 
were subsequently made Protestant bishops, to meet in December 
and prepare for the coming "alteration of religion." The change 
was to " be first attempted at the next Parliament," and great care 
was required to have all ready, as it was recognised that "many 
people of our own will be very much discontented," especially those 

io6 A Short History of 

" who governed in the late Queen's time" and were chosen "for being 
hot and earnest in the other religion." To guard against this all 
those who were in authority, " only or chiefly for being of the Pope's 
religion," should be got rid of and if possible " searched by all law." 
In their place were to be put " such as are known to be sure in 
religion." And in regard to this, Elizabeth, " to maintain and 
establish her religion," must 'do what Queen Mary did. As to the 
existing bishops and clergy, the Queen " must seek, as well by 
Parliament as by the just laws of England, in prcemunire and other 
such penal laws, to bring them again into order," and not to pardon 
until they throw themselves on her mercy, "abjure the Pope of Rome, 
and conform themselves to the new alterations." A Committee was 
then appointed to have " a plat or book " for the New Service " ready 
drawn to Her Highness : which being approved of Her Majesty, may 
be so put into the Parliament house." Meanwhile all innovations in 
religious worship were to be prohibited; and "until such time as the 
book came forth " no alterations were to be made " further than Her 
Majesty hath, except it be to receive the Communion as Her High- 
ness pleaseth, on high feasts. . . . And for Her Highness's conscience 
till then, if there be some other devout sort of prayers or memory, 
said; and the seldomer, Mass." 

Meanwhile the funeral of the late Queen had been celebrated with 
all the old Catholic ceremonies ; but Bishop White, who had preached 
the funeral oration and had extolled Mary for her zeal in the restora- 
tion of the ancient Faith of England, found himself in prison for his 
boldness. Shortly after this the obsequies of the Emperor, Charles 
V., were also celebrated at Westminster ; but here, if the Count de 
Feria is correct, the celebrant was an heretical minister, who left out 
the Pope's name in the Mass, said the Pater Noster in English, and 
otherwise made innovations which were distasteful and shocking to 
Catholic sentiment. Other signs of coming changes quickly followed. 
The Reforming divines of course returned from abroad to England and 
were appointed to various ecclesiastical positions. Bishop Oglethorpe, 
of Carlisle, while robing for Mass on Christmas morning, received an 
order from the Queen that he was not to elevate the Blessed 
Sacrament in her royal presence. To this the bishop replied, " My 
life is the Queen's, but my conscience is my own," intimating that he 
should continue to do as the Catholic rites prescribed. The Queen 

the Catholic Church in England 107 

thereupon left the chapel with her suite after the Gospel. Towards 
the end of the year all preaching was prohibited by royal proclama- 
tion, which also required that certain portions of the service should be 
read in English, and that " all such rites and ceremonies should be 
observed in all parish churches of the kingdom as were then used and 
retained in Her Majesty's chapel, until consultation might be had in 
Parliament by the Queen and the three estates." 

Within two months of Elizabeth's succession, then, there was no 
longer room for doubt as to her intentions. As January 14, 1559, 
had been appointed for the Queen's coronation at Westminster, the 
bishops met and unanimously declared that in conscience they could 
not officiate. They would not, they said, go through the ceremony of 
anointing and crowning one who, though she still professed to belong 
to the old religion, had shown unmistakable evidence of a determina- 
tion to revolutionise the existing state of things, and re-establish the 
religion's conditions of the reign of Edw T ard VI. At length, however, 
the Bishop of Carlisle gave way and was induced by the Queen to 
consent to place the crown on her head. But he did not do so until 
she had promised to take the accustomed oath, by which she would 
solemnly engage herself "to maintain the laws, honour, peace, and 
privileges of the Church, as they existed in the time of King Edward 
the Confessor." Elizabeth kept her word ; she attended Mass, took 
the old oath, received the sacred unction, made her Communion 
under one kind, and conformed in everything to the ancient rites of 
the Catholic Pontifical. 

On January 25, 1559, ten days after the coronation festivities, 
Parliament met. As usual in Catholic times, it was opened by a 
solemn Mass, at which Elizabeth was present, but by her direction 
the sermon was preached by Dr. Cox, a notorious Protestant. The 
first business transacted was the Parliament's formal recognition of 
the Queen's right to the throne. Unlike Mary, who had been eager 
to obtain a reversal of the Act by which her mother's marriage with 
Henry VIII. was declared illegitimate, Elizabeth contented herself 
with a declaration of her own royal descent, and left her mother, 
Anne Boleyn, still under the stigma of incest, adultery, and treason. 
As some one said, it seemed as if she desired to forget that she ever 
had a mother, and only to remember that she was her father's daughter. 

Before the new laws concerning religion were proposed, an Act was 

io8 A Short History of 

passed giving back to the Queen the firstfruits, which Mary had again 
assigned to their old purpose of supporting the Pope. Elizabeth 
also at the same time took possession again of the abbey lands and 
other ecclesiastical property, that had been restored to the Church, 
upon which she could lay her hands. When this had been done, the 
Act of Royal Supremacy was immediately proposed for the acceptance 
of Parliament. Its object was, of course, to do away with the spiritual 
supremacy of the Pope and substitute that of the Crown, as had been 
done before. Moreover, a stringent oath agreeing to this was to be 
taken, when required, by every one, from the Archbishop of Canter- 
bury to the parish beadle. No one henceforth could hold any office 
in Church or State who would not renounce the jurisdiction of the 
Pope and acknowledge the supremacy of the Crown. In other words, 
every adherent of the old Faith was deliberately excluded from any 
and every position if he did not deny his Faith and sacrifice his 
conscience. " I desire," said one of the lay Catholics in the Commons 
at the time " I desire it may be remembered that people who suffer 
for refusing this oath are not to be considered as common malefactors, 
thieves, and murderers. They don't offend from wicked intention 
and malice prepense. No, it is conscience and good meaning which 
makes them clash with the law." 

Of the twenty-six English Sees ten were actually vacant in 
A.D. 1559, and the brunt of the battle for the preservation of the 
old religion fell upon the diminished number of bishops in the House 
of Lords. To strengthen their hands Convocation met and drew up 
a Declaration of Catholic Faith. This document is important and 
interesting, if for no other reason than because it was the last solemn 
pronouncement of the English Church before its final alteration. 
By it the English Church affirmed its belief in the existence of the 
"natural Body of Christ," under the species of bread and wine, " in 
the Sacrament of the Altar, by virtue of the Word of Christ duly 
spoken by the priest." It declared also its belief in Transubstantia- 
tion and in the true Sacrificial character of the Mass ; also it affirmed, 
11 that to Blessed Peter and to his lawful successors in the Apostolic 
See, as Vicars of Christ, has been given the supreme power of feeding 
and ruling the Church of Christ upon earth, and of confirming their 
brethren." The English Universities also gave in their adherence to 
these articles. 

the Catholic Church in England 109 

The three Acts of Parliament by which the religion of the country 
was changed and the Elizabethan settlement effected were : (1) The 
Act for the Kestoration of Tenths to the Crown; (2) the Act of 
Supremacy; and (3) the Act of Uniformity, which authorised and 
imposed the Eeformed Prayer Book. The bishops fought each of 
these Bills step by step, and unanimously voted against them. The 
old story that the intention of Queen Elizabeth's Government was to 
introduce the First Prayer Book of A.D. 1549 is disproved by facts. 
From the first, with three slight modifications, the liturgy adopted by 
the Queen's committee, half the members of which had been among 
the German and Swiss Protestants during the late reign, and the rest 
were well known as earnest and advanced Keformers, was the Prayer 
Book of A.D. 1552. This was introduced into Parliament in March, 
1559. The authorities were foiled in their first attempt to force it 
through; how or why does not appear. They were not, however, 
baffled, and on March 17th a new Bill was proposed : " That no 
person shall be punished for using the religion used in King Edward's 
last year." This was pushed through the House in two days, and 
was more than the thin edge of the wedge. After Easter had passed, in 
April, the proposed Book was re-introduced and carried on April 28th 
by a bare majority of three votes, and without the support of a single 
spiritual Peer. The famous speech of Bishop Scot and that of 
Abbot Feckenham, in which they challenged the world to produce a 
single instance where the bishops were not consulted and listened to 
in a controversy of this kind, were the last constitutional efforts made 
by the old religion to stay the innovations. That their weighty 
arguments were not wholly unheeded may be judged by the very 
narrow majority which carried the religious revolution. Had there 
not been so many Sees vacant at this time there can be no reasonable 
doubt that the intentions of the Government, for a time at least, 
would have been defeated, and the new Prayer Book rejected. As it 
was, however, the Elizabethan settlement rested upon the infallibility 
of the odd three. 

The Act of Uniformity did more, of course, than sanction the 
Protestant Prayer Book. It made its use obligatory under grave 
penal enactments. Any clergyman who did not use it was fined for 
the first offence, deprived of his benefice for the second and im- 
prisoned for life for the third. All persons absenting themselves from 

I io A Short History of 

Church on Sundays were to be fined for each offence, and the 
amount of the fine increased as time went on. This Act and that of 
Supremacy formed the basis of the restrictive code of laws, which, 
as Hallam says, " pressed so heavily for more than two centuries upon 
the adherents to the Eomish Church." 

No sooner was the Elizabethan settlement of religion accomplished by 
these Acts of the Parliament of 1559 than the Queen issued a set of 
injunctions, which were probably the work of Cecil. The com- 
missioners appointed to carry them out were, with one exception, 
laymen ; yet they received ample powers to visit and reform all 
cathedrals and churches and to inquire into the faith, &c., of the 
bishops and clergy ; to induct to benefices, to convene synods and to 
perform every episcopal and sacerdotal function except that of 
Ordination, Consecration and the administration of the Sacraments. 
Before the December of this year, 1559, the bishops had all been dealt 
with by these commissions. They were put to the test of the new 
oath of Supremacy, and all unhesitatingly refused, with the exception 
of Kitchen of Llandaff, whom Godwin calls " the shame and reproach 
of his See." Those who were constant to the old Faith, to the number 
of fifteen, were deprived and most of them imprisoned more or less 
strictly. The exceptions were Scot of Chester, Pate of Worcester, 
and Goldwell of St. Asaph, who escaped abroad. 

Thus with one exception the whole of the Catholic Hierarchy had 
been deposed in one batch by the civil power, and placed in, what 
Camden euphemistically calls, "free custody." No doubt some only 
of them underwent the rigours of the prison dungeon ; but it may be 
questioned whether to them enforced detention for years in the 
houses of the new bishops, with the obligation of consorting with 
their wives and families, would not have been more distasteful and 
more personally degrading than the stricter confinement of prison 

After the bishops, came the turn of the clergy. The first Visita- 
tion, made in 1559 for the purpose of tendering the oath, was so barren 
of results that after it had lasted six months it was abandoned in 
December. In brief, it may be said that the purpose of the visitors 
was mainly defeated by the majority of the clergj' refusing to attend 
according to their summons. In the province of York, out of ninety 
priests summoned only twenty-one took the oath, thirty-six came 

the Catholic Church in England 1 1 1 

and refused it, seventeen were absent. In the province of Canter- 
bury whole bodies like the Dean and Canons of Winchester, the 
Warden and Fellows of the College, and the Master of St. Cross all 
refused the oath. For the whole province the visitors omit the 
absentees and give the number 786 conformists and 49 recusants. 
Out of 8,911 parishes and 9,400 beneficed clergymen only 806 took 
the oath. It is probable that in the north and west of England in 
particular many of the Catholic clergy were left undisturbed till 
three years later, when a second Visitation was ordered. At that time 
many of the married clergy ousted by Mary were reinstated, and the 
large number of vacant benefices attested the loyalty of great numbers 
to the old Faith, and compelled the authorities to ordain to the 
ministry that motley crowd of new clergy described by Prebendary 
Heylin in his History. This also alone explains why, as Hallam 
says, "for several years it was the common practice to appoint 
laymen, usually mechanics, to read the Service in the vacant 

The entire bench of bishops having been got rid of, it became 
necessary to devise means to supply their places, for Elizabeth and her 
Council, unlike the foreign sectaries, decided that the " Settlement" 
scheme should include bishops as well as ministers. It was 
apparently, indeed, for a time undecided whether this distinction 
should be kept, but ultimately for many reasons it was arranged 
that it should be. These bishops, even to satisfy the scruples of the 
popular conscience if for no other, must be consecrated, but the 
difficulty of obtaining consecration was somewhat serious. An Arch- 
bishop by the law had to be consecrated by an Archbishop or by four 
bishops, and, as Cecil wrote at the time, " there is no Archbishop and 
no four bishops, what is to be done ? " The various commissions that 
were issued show the straits to which the Government were reduced. 
Finally, however, the foundation of the new Hierarchy was constituted 
by the consecration of Archbishop Parker. Bishop Barlow, whose own 
consecration must always be doubtful, officiated, and two Edwardine 
bishops, with Hodgkins, a suffragan consecrated under the old rite, 
assisted at the ceremony, which was performed according to the 
Ordinal of Edward VI. Parker without delay filled up the other 
vacant Sees, and the Elizabethan Settlement of religion was com- 
pleted. Whatever invalidity there might have been was legally 


112 A Short History of 

supplied by the sovereign in virtue of the plenitude of jurisdiction 
which was considered to reside in her. 

The rest of Elizabeth's reign, so far as Catholics are concerned, is 
mainly a record of persecution. Once in 1569, in the northern parts, 
they rose in defence of the Faith of their ancestors, and for a tune 
they rnet with success. Their minds were swayed by religious 
fervour ; they were all Catholics at heart, as the Queen's agent in the 
North wrote : " There are not in all this country ten gentlemen that 
do favour and allow of Her Majesty's proceedings in the cause of 
religion." Durham was the scene of their first act of hostility, and 
there the Communion table was thrown down and Mass was cele- 
brated again in the old cathedral, in the presence of many thousand 
people. But the reverse came quickly, and the usual Tudor execu- 
tions restored the Queen's power, and the memory of " rivers of 
blood" long remained as an object-lesson to the dissatisfied. Those 
who were pardoned only secured it by renouncing their religion and 
taking the oath of Supremacy. 

Events took place in the second half of the century which con. 
siderably aggravated Protestant hatred for Catholics and led to the 
passing of penal laws of ever-increasing severity, in A.D. 1571, 1581, 
1585, 1587, 1593. The pathetic position of Mary Queen of Scots excited 
the pity and compromised the safety of many English Catholics, 
who, however sympathetic, were falsely supposed to be endeavouring 
to compass Elizabeth's death to secure the accession of the Catholic 
Mary. But what more than all else called up the rigours of perse- 
cution against the adherents of the old religion was the foundation of 
the seminaries abroad for the education of Catholic missionaries. 
This movement, which originated with the opening of Dr. Allen's 
Doway Seminary in 1568, led to the creation of many other centres 
for the same purpose abroad, such as at Valladolid, Lisbon, Seville, 
St. Omers, and later at Rome itself. Cecil quickly realised what 
this meant. He had counted on the gradual extinction of the old 
Marian priesthood and the consequent dying out of the old Faith 
among a people left without priest or teacher. The creation of these 
seminaries entirely upset his calculations ; from them were con- 
stantly being poured into the country zealous and single-minded men 
by the score and the hundred, who did much more than supply the 
place of the clergy who were dying out. In 1580 the first Jesuits 

the Catholic Church in England 1 1 3 

found their way into England, and they were followed in a continual 
stream by other members of the same order. From this time the 
persecution began in earnest. 

What contributed greatly to increasing the trials of the English 
Catholics was the embarrassing and painful excommunication pro- 
nounced against Elizabeth in 1571 by Pope Pius V. It furnished 
the Government of the time with a weapon they were not slow to 
use, and it made it appear as if a political offence might be considered 
at least as part of the religious offence of their Faith. Henceforth 
Catholics for being Catholics were treated and punished as traitors. 
For the last twenty years of this reign, every year, with only one 
exception, there were numerous executions for religion in England. 
Most of those who suffered death were priests, and there are recorded 
the names of nearly two hundred of these martyrs for conscience 
and duty. Thousands of men and women were also punished by 
fines and imprisonment for their refusal to obey the statutes 
passed to secure the Queen's religious Settlement, and these 
underwent a slow martyrdom under the pressure of the recusancy 
laws, compared with which even the scaffold would often have 
been a relief. Nor must it be forgotten that all during the latter 
part of the sixteenth century the rack, the thumbscrew, the Sca- 
venger's-daughter, the Little Ease, and other tortures, were being 
constantly requisitioned to convert " papists " from the error of their 
ways to the new Protestant religion as by law established. But it 
was a battle for conscience' sake. To them, as has been said, " it 
was the Mass that mattered," and how could they consent to attend 
a service which had been designedly drawn up as a rejection of the 
Mass altogether, even when refusal meant the sacrifice of all their 
possessions, with prospective imprisonment and torture '? " It was the 
Mass that mattered," and to that the persecuted people clung. " It 
fills me with amazement," writes Father Parsons in 1580 from 
England, " when I behold and reflect upon the devotion which 
Catholics in England show by gestures and behaviour at Mass ; 
for they are overpowered by such a sense of awe and reverence 
that . . . when the Lord's Body is elevated they weep so abun- 
dantly as to draw tears, even involuntarily, from my dry and 
parched eyes." 

U4 A Short History of 


THE story of the Catholic Church in England cannot be concluded 
with A.D. 1559 and the triumph of the Reformation. The attempted 
destruction of the old Faith and the establishment by law of the Pro- 
testant religion, it is true destroyed the Catholic Hierarchy and trans- 
ferred the legal possession of the cathedrals and other churches from 
the old owners to the new, and structurally adapted them, by the 
destruction of altars, roods and images, &c., to the new non- sacrificial 
liturgy. But the Catholic Church survived the storm and stress of 
Elizabeth's days, and that they did so excites to-day our admiration 
for and wonder at our brave Catholic ancestors. Unfortunately they 
were divided in many matters of policy amongst themselves, and for 
a long period, through the influence of some parties at Rome, the 
Catholics of England were left without the help of bishops. In fact, 
until A.D. 1581 there was really no head save the successors of St. 
Peter. In that year Gregory XIII. appointed Dr. Allen " Prefect of 
the English Mission," and until his death in 1595 he contrived, as 
best he could, to administer the ecclesiastical business from abroad. 
Allen appears, moreover, once at least, to have visited England 
during this time. He went about the Catholic homes of Lanca- 
shire making the heads of families swear never to take part in the 
Protestant services, and so saved the Faith at least in Lancashire. 
From 1598 to 1621 the Church in England was administered by Arch- 
priests ; after that time for more than two centuries by Vicars- 

The bare lists of executions, rackings, and imprisonments can give 
but a very inadequate idea of the sufferings endured with heroic 

the Catholic Church in England 1 1 5 

constancy by the Catholics during the last quarter of the sixteenth 
century. It is impossible to sketch any picture which can give a 
proper notion of the life they must have led ; constant alarms, 
torturing suspense, mental agony was the lot of whole multitudes 
from week to week for years together. No one was safe. Visitations 
and searches by the priest-hunters looking for their prey ; information 
lodged in secret ; frequent attendance at meetings of commissioners 
and magistrates for the purpose of cross-examination ; detention in 
gaol or confinement to the precincts of a house or estate, was the 
common fortune of those that were staunch to the old Faith. But 
worst of all must have been the amount of privation and positive 
destitution and ruin caused by the exaction of the fines for refusing 
to come to Church. None but the rich could afford to pay '2Q a 
month (at thirteen months to the year) " for refusing to come to 
Church where Common Prayer is said," and they only did it by 
sacrificing and selling their estates. During the last twenty years of 
Elizabeth's life she actually received in hard cash from this source 
120,305 19s. 7^d., a vast sum for those days. Every time also Catho- 
lics could be proved to have heard Mass there was a fine of a hundred 
marks, and they were liable to great penalties and even to be hanged 
as felons. On any special occasion they could be lodged in the 
nearest county gaol at their own expense, had to pay double tax, and 
were frequently placed under the watchful care of their Protestant 
neighbours, or forbidden to stir more than five miles from their 
homes without a licence of the bishop of the diocese or the deputy- 
lieutenant, on pain of forfeiting their goods and all the profits of 
their lands for life. 

The marvel is that the measures taken by the Government did 
not succeed in " eradicating popery " from England. That it did 
not was not the fault of the executive. They did their best. In 1584 
Bishop Cooper found the number of recusants in his diocese so great 
that he advised drastic measures. His plan was " that a hundred or 
two of the obstinate recusants, lusty men, well able to labour," 
should be shipped over to Flanders as convict labourers. And in the 
same year the Clerk of the Peace for the county of Hampshire 
states that " at every session the indictments against " the recusants 
are at least one hundred and forty, and he adds that both his time 
and that of the magistrates is chiefly taken up over these religious 

ii6 A Short History of 

prosecutions. It was the same all over England, and, when at the 
close of the reign after the penal laws had done their worst, there 
were some that reckoned the adherents of the old religion still as the 
majority in the nation. 

One word must be said about the attempt made at the close of the 
sixteenth century, which has indeed been revived since, to minimise 
the cruelty of Elizabeth's executions on the ground that the priests 
suffered not for their religion, but for treason. Hallam long ago 
protested against the needless addition of insult to injury, and the 
non-Catholic authority, Mr. Beesly, declares that these " attempts to 
excuse such legislation as prompted by political reasons can only 
move the disgust of every honest-minded man." " To say," writes 
Sydney Smith, that because " a law is passed making it high treason 
for a priest to exercise his functions in England," when a priest is 
caught and executed, that " this is not religious persecution," but 
the just punishment of an offence against the State, is absurd. " We 
are, I hope, all too busy to need any answer to such childish, uncandid 
reasoning as this." 

Hopes of better treatment had been raised among the Catholics 
by the accession of James I. in March, 1603. It seems certain that 
chance expressions of the King had led them to believe that some form 
of toleration would be extended to them. These expectations were soon 
doomed to be disappointed ; James re-enacted the penal laws, and 
this has been assigned as the cause leading up to what has been known 
as the Gunpowder Plot. How far the conspiracy of a few individuals 
furnished the Government with the material upon which to embroider 
all the traditional horrors and minute details need not be here 
discussed. It is sufficient to point out that it is now admitted that 
the Catholics, as Professor Eawson Gardiner says, " were subjected 
to a persecution borne with the noblest and least assertive constancy, 
simply in consequence of what is now known to all historical students 
to have been the entirely false charge that the plot emanated from, 
or was approved by " them " as a body." The result to Catholics 
was, as might have been foreseen, disastrous ; fines were increased, 
or more carefully exacted, and new means of subjecting the adherents 
of the old religion to petty persecutions of all sorts were invented. 
All was borne, we are told by the authority on this period as quoted 
above, " with the noblest and least assertive constancy." 

the Catholic Church in England 1 1 7 

Matters might have been rendered less difficult for the unfortunate 
English Catholics had they been permitted, at this time, to take an 
oath of allegiance to James. The terms of the declaration which 
denied the " deposing power " of the Pope was fully approved by the 
Archpriest Black well and many other ecclesiastics. The question 
was referred to Eome and the Pope refused his consent. Despair 
seized upon many of the Catholics and not a few conformed to the 
Established Church. 

The marriage of Charles I. to Henrietta Maria, a Catholic, gave 
better courage and some heart to the Catholics. For the first time 
for many years Mass was said publicly both in the Queen's chapel, 
and in the chapels of the various ambassadors, at which large numbers 
assisted. Papal envoys were also received at the Court, and did some- 
thing to better the conditions of the Catholics, but little else. Panzani, 
one of them, was chiefly instrumental in obtaining the appointment 
of a bishop. All this time the Sacrament of Confirmation had not 
been administered in the country, and the Holy Oils for Extreme 
Unction and Baptism had been obtained from Flanders or the Low 
Countries as opportunity served. The Papal envoy found, as he cal- 
culated, that there were about 150,000 Catholics in England. A great 
variety of opinions existed even amongst the faithful as to what was 
lawful and what was not. For instance, the payment of Easter dues 
to the Established Church was a great source of difficulty, as the 
receipt implied that the person who paid had already communicated 
at the Protestant Communion service. The oath of allegiance, too, 
was another source of doubt and disagreement. There was no talk 
of any oath of Supremacy: that had been dropped altogether for 
Catholics ; but the King demanded the oath of allegiance, and there 
was a very large party in favour of taking it ; others were equally 
strong against it, and the authorities at Rome sided with the latter. 

On the approach of the civil war Charles appealed to his Catholic 
subjects, and through his Queen he promised to remove all penal 
statutes if they would support him. This they did with unanimous 
loyalty, which upon the success of the Parliamentarians did not 
improve their condition during the Commonwealth. On the Restora- 
tion, however, Charles II. wished to requite their fidelity to the 
Stuart cause by granting toleration, but the anti-Catholic feeling was 
altogether too strong, various circumstances having just at this time 

u8 A Short History of 

tended to aggravate it. Every misfortune and calamity was popularly 
attributed to the luckless " papist." The inscription on the monu- 
ment commemorating the Fire of London may be taken as an instance. 
The misfortune was ascribed to "the treachery and malice of the 
Popish faction." Charles did what he could, and, besides proposing 
an Emancipation Bill he persistently refused to consider the Bill 
which was intended to exclude his brother James, Duke of York, 
from the succession. But the bitter and unreasoning hostility to 
Catholics grew rather than diminished towards the close of his 
reign, and as one of the results of the infamous fictions of Titus 
Gates, two thousand persons were imprisoned on suspicion of being 
implicated in a plot, and a number of priests and laymen suffered 
death as traitors on his perjured statements. The two last Catholics 
to fall victims to their religious convictions were William Howard, 
Viscount Stafford, in 1680, and Oliver Plunket, Archbishop of Armagh, 
the following year. In 1685 Charles II. died, having received the 
grace of conversion, and before his death being received into the 
Catholic Church by Father Huddleston. 

James, Duke of York, succeeded his brother as James II. at a most 
unfortunate time for Catholics. It would have required great tact 
and prudence, as well as the capacity for waiting on opportunities, to 
do any good whatever to the cause that the King had at heart, the 
restoration of the Catholic religion. James possessed none of these 
qualities. He was a Stuart; incapable of understanding or even 
seeing difficulties, of yielding his will, or of tolerating other views but 
his own. It is impossible to imagine a more foolish policy than he 
from the first adopted. During the four short years he occupied the 
throne, he contrived to arouse the distrust of all his subjects, and 
certainly left an increased legacy of difficulties to the Catholics \vhen, 
in 1688, Dutch William had established himself on the throne of 

Within a few years of the accession of William of Orange, new 
penal laws against the unfortunate "papists" were passed by the 
Commons, which seemed to promise the speedy extirpation of English 
Catholicism. "The experience of Elizabeth's reign," says a writer 
on this period, " had shown that the infliction of actual death roused 
a life-giving enthusiasm among Catholics themselves and sympathy 
in the witnesses of their sufferings. The penal system now introduced 

the Catholic C/mrck in England 1 1 9 

was the preference for gagging a man, binding him hand and foot, 
bandaging his eyes, and imprisoning him for life, rather than killing 
him outright." 

It was now made a crime for a Catholic to possess arms or a horse 
above 5 in value. Perpetual imprisonment was to be the punish- 
ment for saying Mass or keeping a school. Every informer who 
could secure the apprehension of a priest was to receive a reward 
of 100. Catholics were declared incapable of inheriting lands, 
and the next of kin who was a Protestant could claim the inheritance, 
and a Catholic could not purchase lands or estates after April 10, 1700. 
Such are some few of the penal enactments by which the new policy 
of William strove to destroy the last remnant of the faithful adherents 
to the old Faith of their fathers. 

For the next century the history of Catholicism in this country 
is the story of one long, patient, but determined endurance. Theirs 
was the attitude of a man conscious of innocence, but condemned to 
lifelong solitary confinement, who nerves himself to resist either death 
or loss of reason. It is indeed hardly possible to exaggerate the 
hopeless condition to which Catholics were reduced by this new 
system of repression. While the statute book still recorded laws 
against his property, his liberty, and even against his life, which were 
held in terror over him, and which at times through spite or religious 
fanaticism were even invoked against him, he was sedulously shut out 
from all participation in the national life of his country, and all 
professions were equally barred against him. At first, and for a 
generation or two, Catholics had struggled to free themselves from the 
strong grip of the State upon their throats, which was intentionally 
choking the life out of them. Like a suffocating man under like con- 
ditions, some did not stop to think whether their efforts to free them- 
selves were either right or politic, or could be justified by the cut-and- 
dried principles of casuistry. It is easy for us who do not feel the 
strong arm of the law ever threatening our existence to criticise and 
condemn the action of this or that individual amongst them, who, 
when they and others lay helpless, and writhing and dying, thought 
to make terms which would let them breathe again and give them 
back life and hope. But before the close of this period even these 
bids for liberty were things of the past. Hope had departed from the 
breasts of Catholics, and almost the only prayer which, in the records 

I2O A Short History of 

of that terrible time, the historian can recognise as uttered by that 
rapidly dwindling body, is one for resignation and for the grace to be 
at least left to die in peace. 

There were, of course, exceptions ; but gloom and despair seein 
to have settled down as a black cloud over English Catholics 
from the middle of the eighteenth century. Those who persisted 
in acting and agitating were looked upon, even by those for whom 
they fought and strove, as dangerous disturbers of a tacit truce, and 
as men who by their indiscretions might well bring down again upon 
the heads of all the rigours of active persecution. Sad indeed 
terribly sad is the lot of that band of the faithful few at that time. 
In all the chronicles of history I know of no page which records a 
more touching and more heartrending story than that of this yearly 
diminishing remnant of those who had never bowed their knees to 
Baal, who had undergone the long-drawn agony of a life martyrdom 
for the Faith of their fathers. 

Hope itself had well nigh departed: and in the darkest hours 
that went before the dawn of better times the thoughts of many 
hearts were but little removed, except by resignation to God's 
will, from blank despair. Still some souls chafed at the situation and 
at the precarious condition in which they found themselves. " Shall 
I," wrote one of them " shall I sit down silently satisfied, because the 
good humour of the magistrate chooses to indulge me, whilst there 
are laws of which any miscreant has daily power to enforce the 
execution ? My ease, my property, and my life are at the disposal of 
every villain, and I am to be pleased because he is not at this time 
disposed to deprive me of them. To-inorrow his humour may vary, 
and I shall then be obliged to hide my head in some dark corner, or to 
fly from this land of boasted liberty." 

In A.D. 1778 Sir George Savile carried in Parliament a Relief 
Bill for Catholics, which was intended to redress some of the most 
glaring items of legal injustice which Catholics had long endured with 
all the fortitude of Christian martyrs. It did not effect much, but it 
was the beginning, and " it shook the general prejudice against 
Catholics to the centre. It restored to them a thousand indescribable 
charities in the ordinary intercourse of social life which they had 
seldom experienced." To obtain relief under this Act the Catholic 
was required to take an oath abjuring the Pretender, rejecting 

the Catholic Church in England 121 

the deposing power of the Pope, and condemning the doctrine, 
supposed to be taught in the Roman schools, that faith need not 
be kept with heretics, and that ail such heretics could at any time 
be lawfully put to death. It is difficult to imagine that an oath 
of this kind could ever have presented any difficulty to the mind of an 
English Catholic, except in so far as it was a reflection upon his 
intelligent apprehension of his religion. Yet it was precisely here 
that the difficulty of arriving at any modus vivendi had lain for 
generations. Now, however, the Vicars-Apostolic accepted the con- 
ditions, and as a sign of this on June 4, 1778, they ordered public 
prayers to be said in all churches for the King. 

This very small measure of justice provoked an anti-Catholic agita- 
tion which culminated in the Gordon riots. It is in the attitude of 
many Catholics at this time of trial that we have revealed to us in the 
most striking manner the pitiable condition to which the long- 
endured persecution had reduced them. The laity were, with some 
exceptions, afraid of courting observation and reckoned their obscurity 
to be their security. They hardly dared to show their faces for fear of 
the law being called in to lash them back to their hiding-places. 
According to one who lived at the time, and had every means of knowing 
the facts, "they were very prudent, very cautious, very provident 
and very timid. . . . When the tumults of last summer (1780) 
was raging in the metropolis" their voice "was heard tremblingly 
giving counsel : * For God's sake,' they said, ' let us instantly petition 
Parliament to repeal this obnoxious Bill ; it is better to confess 
that we are guilty of all the crimes laid to our charges than to be 
burnt in our homes.' They even dared to carry about a form 
of petition to that effect praying for the signature of names. ' We 
told you,' continued they, ' what would be the event of your addresses 
to the throne, your oaths of allegiance, and your repeal of laws.' " 

This, however, was the turning-point, and twenty years later 
Catholics had already begun to understand the advantages even 
of toleration, and had by their organised agitation and above all 
by the help extended to them from Ireland secured other measures of 
liberty. Looking back upon the time that was then happily past, 
the great Daniel O'Connell, addressing the Catholic gentry, said: " My 
thoughts turn to that period in your history when religious dissension 
assembled all its elements together and scattered to the wind the Faith 

122 A Short History of 

and ritual of your forefathers. Sad, indeed, since that time has been 
the record of religion and its sufferings in England. He who would 
follow it seems to see himself as though present at a shipwreck where 
nought may be discerned on every side but scattered and disjointed 
fragments but still the hull was left ; it was the heart of oak, and 
while that survived there was hope for those who clung to it. I 
know well how difficult the position of Catholics has hitherto been, 
how constantly against them the efforts of the persecutor had 
been directed ; how for three centuries, indeed, they had borne 
the whole weight of oppression which crushed down their Catholic 
fellow-countrymen even to the dust, the blood of their noblest 
members rendered its own red testimony upon the scaffold, in devoted 
vindication of that Faith which the first missionaries to these shores had 
preached to their ancestors. . . . Others indeed survived, but it 
was only to endure a lingering martyrdom never to cease but with the 
natural duration of life itself. More happy far were those whose 
martyrdom was consummated on the scaffold, for them at least their 
sufferings were ended, and they entered at once into their reward 
in bliss. But the less fortunate survivors saw themselves doomed, 
without reprieve, to lives of suffering, contumely, and ignominy 
of every kind at the hands of the basest and most ignoble of 
their Protestant countrymen. And they stood it nobly ! " 

the Catholic Church in England 123 


WHAT happened after the centuries of persecution is best described 
under the title of Cardinal Newman's immortal sermon, preached at 
the first Synod of the Catholic Church held in England since the days 
of Cardinald Pole. Succisa virescit : though cut down and stripped 
of its ancient external glory, the sap began to rise and the old trunk 
put forth again leaf and bud and bloom, the promise of a new and 
fruitful life, It was indeed a " Second Spring." 

To understand the change it is necessary to know something of the 
state to which the persecution had reduced the Catholic Church in 
England. In 1780, according to the only statistics available, English 
Catholics numbered only 69,376, but Joseph Berington, who lived at 
the time and had every means of knowing, considered that this esti- 
mate was too high and that in reality they were not more than 60,000. 
Of this number the Bishop of Chester, who be it remembered strongly 
advocated Catholic Emancipation in 1778, claimed to have in his 
diocese, which included Lancashire, 27,228 ; or about two-fifths of 
the entire Catholic population of the country. It was at this same 
time estimated that, in the twenty years between 1760 and 1780, 
whilst the general population of the diocese of Chester had greatly 
increased, the Catholics had also increased, but only by 2,089. In the 
rest of England, however, there had been a decrease in their numbers. 
In many of the dioceses there are said in the returns made to Parlia- 
ment not to have been fifty Catholics, and in some not even ten. At 
this period the total population of England and Wales was estimated 

124 A Short History of 

at some 6,000,000. In other words in 1780 the Catholics formed little 
more than 1 per cent of the English people. 

The particulars which Berington collected are most distressing 
reading. In the West of England, South Wales, and some of the 
Midland counties, he says, " there is scarcely a Catholic to be found." 
The residences of the priests gtwe the best indication of the where- 
abouts of Catholics, and, after London, the greatest number of clergy 
were in Lancashire, Staffordshire, and in the northern counties. 
Some large manufacturing towns such as Norwich, Manchester, 
Liverpool, Wolverhampton, and Newcastle had chapels which were 
reported to be rather overcrowded. Except in the larger towns and 
in Lancashire the chief situation of Catholics was in the neighbour- 
hood of old families who had remained faithful. They were mainly 
the servants and children of servants who had married from these 
families and who chose to remain round the old mansion for the 
convenience of religious exercises and because they hoped for the 
favour and help of their late masters. 

In the opinion of the same writer, who had taken considerable 
pains to arrive at the truth, Catholics had rapidly decreased in 
numbers during the eighteenth century, and the shrinkage was still 
going on in 1780. Many congregations, he says, have disappeared 
altogether, and in one district " with which I am acquainted eight 
out of thirteen missionary centres are come to nothing, nor have new 
ones risen to make up in any proportion for their loss." 

As to priests, Berington puts them at about 360 in the whole of 
England, " which I think," said he, " is accurate." In 1781, the year 
Berington wrote, in the Midland District there were fourteen mis- 
sionary stations vacant, and some families had to go five and even ten 
miles to church. Catholicity in the whole district was declining, 
and Catholics were only 8,460, and hardly more than two-thirds of 
the number they had been thirty or forty years before. The Western 
District comprised eight English counties, together with North and 
South Wales, This vast field of labour had only forty-four priests to 
work in it, and this number appears to have been adequate to the 
needs, as the Catholics are said to have been only " very few." Even 
the London District, which extended over nine counties in the South 
of England, is reported in 1780 to have only fifty-eight priests to 
serve for all purposes. There were then five places vacant for which 

the Catholic Church in England 125 

no priest could be found, and the Catholics were reported to be dying 
out except in the metropolis. 

As for schools, the mitigation in the penalties for keeping such 
establishments did not for some years lead to any visible increase in 
their number. In 1780 Berington knew of only three boys' schools of 
any note : " one in Hertfordshire (that is, at Standon, afterwards Old 
Hall), one near Birmingham in Warwickshire (Baddesley Clinton), and 
one near Wolverhampton " (Cotton or Sedgley Park). In London he 
records the existence of some small schools for boys, adding " in other 
parts there may be perhaps little establishments where an old woman 
gives lectures on the Horn-book and the art of spelling." For girls, 
the same authority only knew of the two long- established schools, one 
at Hammersmith and the other at York. 

Such was the melancholy position of Catholics at the time of 
the Gordon riots. The bolder spirits among them were, however, not 
daunted by that outburst of fanaticism which the small measure of 
relief had called forth from the latent Protestantism of the land. 
They continued their agitation, and in February, 1788, a committee of 
English Catholics appealed directly to Pitt to help them. Pitt replied 
by asking them first to collect evidence of the teaching of the 
recognised Catholic Universities as to the " deposing power of the 
Pope." This they did, and obtained from the Sorbonne, Doway, 
Louvain, Salamanca and elsewhere declarations against that opinion. 
Acting 'upon this the great body of Catholics, including the Vicars- 
Apostolic and almost all the clergy, signed their protestation against 
this teaching. This led in 1791 to a further measure of relief, by 
which the legal profession, from barrister downwards, was thrown open 
to Catholics, and some of the most irksome provisions of the still 
existing penal statutes were annulled. The Vicars -Apostolic issued 
letters upon the passing of the Bill saying that people could with safe 
conscience take the required oath. The Catholic Directory of 1792 
sets forth the approved form of solemn declaration which explicitly 
rejects the "deposing power of the Pope "and the supposed Roman 
teaching, that faith was not to be kept with heretics. 

The further progress of emancipation was only a question of time. 
Many influences were at work on the minds of English statesmen, 
which assisted the unwearied efforts of a band of English Catholics, 
who were determined to carry the full measure of justice, in spite of 

126 A Short Hist or v of 

every obstacle put in their way. The French Revolution came as an 
object-lesson to politicians, and made them see that the Catholic 
Church in reality made for law and order, and that its principles 
were opposed to the spirit of revolution and anarchy which seemed 
to have gained so serious a foothold in Europe generally. During 
the pontificates of Benedict XJV. and his three immediate successors, 
the influence of the Catholic priesthood had been uniformly employed 
to support authority, whilst, as Mr. Lecky points out, nearly all the 
political insurrections had been among those professing Protestant 
principles. Edmund Burke, too, used the power of his eloquence in 
favour of the Catholic cause, and, pointing to the attitude of the 
French revolutionary party towards the Church, said : " If lihe 
Catholic religion is destroyed by the infidels, it is a most contemptible 
and absurd idea that this or any other Protestant Church can survive 
the event." 

The hospitality extended by England to the French exiles, and in 
particular to the Catholic priests, did much to familiarise the people 
generally with Catholics and Catholic clergy, and to teach them that 
many of the stories they had been taught to believe about us and our 
religion were obviously untrue in fact. In September and October, 
1792, more than 6,000 French bishops and clergy had been received 
in England, and this number was subsequently increased to 8,000. 
Collections for their support were made in every Protestant parish 
church in England, and at one time there were 660 lodged at the 
public expense in the old Royal Palace at Winchester. 

All this had a real, though perhaps at the time an unsuspected, 
influence upon the fate of the English Catholics. Then came the 
pressure put on Pitt by his Irish supporters, which in 1801 led to his 
proposal for a full measure of Catholic emancipation. This failed for 
a time through the King's refusal to countenance such a Relief Bill, 
and was the cause of Pitt's resignation of office. But it was obvious 
that it was now only a question of time, and Catholics took courage 
and heart. Their numbers increased. In 1816 Bishop Milner says 
that the Catholics in the Midland District numbered 15,000 as against 
8,460 in 1780. Ten years later again it is put at 100,000 in round 
numbers. Even the Western District showed visible improvement. 
In 1815 the number of Catholics is given as 5,500, as against " the very 
few " of 1780. In London itself, Dr. Poynter states that in 1814 the 

the Catholic Church in England 127 

city itself was served by thirty-one priests, ministering in twelve 
chapels to an estimated Catholic population of 49,800. In the 
country parts of the same District the Catholics are put at 18,976. A 
map in the archives of Propaganda, dated 1826, gives 200,000 as the 
entire number of Catholics in this District. And after the Catholic 
Emancipation Bill of 1829 had been passed Bishop Griffiths estimates 
the Catholics of London at 146,000, the general population of the 
city being then about 1,500,000. 

It is unnecessary to pursue the actual history further. The 
complete emancipation of Catholics in 1829 naturally led, in 1850, to 
the restoration of normal Church government, which had been lacking 
for three centuries. In Ireland the Church had never lost its 
Hierarchy, and even through the darkest days of persecution the con- 
tinuity of the episcopate had been preserved. In England, alas ! it 
had been allowed to lapse, and normal Episcopal government had 
remained in abeyance until Pius IX., on September 29, 1850, erected 
new Sees in place of the old ones which Pope St. Gregory had estab- 
lished for St. Augustine's mission nearly thirteen centuries before. 

When we recall the state to which the long years of persecution 
had reduced the Catholic body at the dawn of the nineteenth century, 
we may well wonder at what has been accomplished since then. 
Who shall say how it has come about ? Where out of our poverty, 
for example, have been found the sums of money for all our innumer- 
able needs ? Churches and colleges and schools, monastic buildings 
and convents, have all had to be built and supported; how, the 
Providence of God can alone explain. There have been failures and 
mistakes and losses, plenty of them, and inevitable during such a 
century of reconstruction as we have passed through. It is not for 
us to say how much we may have gained or how much we may have 
lost, provided that we have done and are doing, each in his own 
sphere, our duty to God and His Church. Work is the best test ; 
and looking back there is sufficient evidence of this to make us 
thankful to God for His loving mercies. 

From the first years of the nineteenth century, when the principle 
" suffer it to be" was applied to the English Catholic Church, there 
have been signs of the dawn of brighter, happier days for the old 
religion. Slight indeed were the signs at first, slight but significant, 
and precious memories to us now, of the working of the Spirit, of the 

128 The Catholic Church in England 

rising of the sap again in the old trunk, and of the bursting of bud 
and bloom in manifestation of that life which, during the long winter 
of persecution, had been but dormant. Succisa virescit. Cut down 
almost to the ground, the tree planted by Augustine has manifested 
again the divine life within it; it has put forth once more new 
branches and leaves, and gives promise of abundant fruit. 


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